New York, March 23, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is saddened and alarmed by the death yesterday of Palestinian journalist Mohamed Abu Halima, who was killed outside the city of Nablus in the West Bank.

According to local Palestinian journalists, Abu Halima, who was a journalism student at Al-Najah University in Nablus and a correspondent for university-affiliated Al-Najah radio station, was killed yesterday morning at the entrance of the Balata refugee camp, outside the city of Nablus. Abu Halima, who also worked as a freelance photographer, was reporting on Israeli troop activity near the camp.

Moaz Shraida, a producer and host at the station who was speaking to the journalist moments before he was killed, said that Abu Halima described three Israeli jeeps about a mile (2 kilometers) away from the camp’s entrance, where he was standing. Shraida said that Abu Halima told him that he had begun to take photographs of the jeeps. Shraida said that he then heard gunfire and lost contact with Abu Halima.

Shraida spoke later to Abu Halima’s cousin who was at the scene. The cousin said that Abu Halima was struck by Israeli gunfire in the stomach and died at a local hospital. CPJ has not been able to speak with Abu Halima’s cousin or independently confirm his account.

A family member of Abu Halima told CPJ that Abu Halima was dressed in street clothing the day of the shooting. Local journalists told CPJ that witnesses they spoke to said that Abu Halima was standing among a crowd of people at the entrance of the camp when he was shot. The journalists also said that prior to the shooting there had been clashes in the area between Palestinian youths and the Israeli army.

In a voicemail message to CPJ, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Force who identified himself as Sam Weiderman said that “as far as we know, [Abu Halima] was not a journalist”; that Abu Halima “was armed and he opened fire on IDF forces”; and that the IDF “returned fire.”

CPJ is continuing to investigate the case.