The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned by the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF's) missile attack in the Gaza Strip on a building that houses several media outlets.
According to journalists in Gaza, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired three missiles at the Al-Shawwa Wil Hossary building on Al-Wihda Street just after midnight on June 29. The building contains the offices of several local and international media organizations, including those of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and German television ARD.
Two employees of Ramattan Broadcast Services, a company that provides studio equipment and services to international news outlets in Gaza and also operates from the building, were slightly injured in the attack. Other journalists were reported to be in the building, which is typically occupied throughout the day and night.
The missile attack took place a day after Palestinians fired rockets on the Israeli town of Sederot on Monday, killing two Israelis -- an attack for which Hamas claimed responsibility.
Journalists in Gaza told CPJ the missiles struck the third floor of the building, which houses Al-Jeel Press Office, headed by freelance journalist Mustafa al-Sawaf, who contributes to news outlets that include the Cairo-based news Web site Islamonline.com; the BBC; and Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). CPJ sources said that Al-Saada, a weekly magazine with Islamist sympathies, had previously shared an office with Al-Jeel, but had recently vacated the building and moved to another location.
According to an IDF statement posted on its Web site, the media building was targeted because it was used by Hamas as a base for distributing "incitement material" in the Gaza Strip, as a "communication center which maintained constant contact with terrorists," and as a "channel through which Hamas claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks." No further details were provided.
CPJ reminds you that media offices are civilian facilities and are protected from attack under international humanitarian law unless they are used for military purposes. The IDF has not provided any compelling evidence that the office was used in this manner. The attack on the building was also disproportionate to any perceived threat and reckless in endangering civilians -- in this case the many journalists who work there.
As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we call on you to provide a detailed explanation of the reasons for this attack, and to ensure that Israeli forces refrain from attacking or recklessly endangering media facilities.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.
Ann K. Cooper