Israeli forces strike Al-Manar TV facilities

New York, July 13, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Israel to explain its attacks on Al-Manar TV, the satellite news channel affiliated with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Al-Manar managing director, Ali-Al-Haji, told CPJ that Israeli aircraft fired two missiles today at the station’s headquarters in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik. Two employees were injured by flying glass, and a civilian in a nearby house was also wounded. The top floors of the building were severely damaged, al-Haji said. However, the station continued to broadcast. Israeli forces separately struck two Al-Manar TV transmitters, one near Baalbek, northeast of Beirut, and another in Maroun al-Ras in southern Lebanon.

The strikes took place as part of an Israeli military offensive in Lebanon that began after Hezbollah guerillas abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed another eight near the Lebanese-Israeli border yesterday. At least 53 Lebanese civilians have been killed in Israeli air strikes, news agencies reported.

Calls to Israel’s embassy in the United States requesting comment on the Al-Manar attacks were not immediately returned today.

The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks on civilian targets unless they are used for military purposes. While Al-Manar may serve a propaganda function for Hezbollah, it does not appear based on a monitoring of its broadcasts today to be serving any discernible military function, according to CPJ’s analysis.

“Israel should immediately explain the basis for these strikes on Al-Manar,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

In a separate development today, Reuters reported that cameraman Rami Amichai was wounded in the leg by shrapnel in a Hezbollah rocket attack. Amichai had been filming in the Israeli coastal city of Nahariya when a rocket struck nearby, sending shrapnel flying into his lower leg, Reuters said. He was taken to hospital for treatment.

On Wednesday, three journalists working for the Lebanese satellite television channel New TV were seriously wounded when their car was struck during Israel’s bombardment of the al-Mahmoudiyeh Bridge in southern Lebanon, New TV producer Sana’ Salami told CPJ. Reporter Bassel al-Aridi, cameraman Abed Khayat, and assistant cameraman Ziad Sawan were seriously injured. Their vehicle was destroyed. The journalists are now recovering in the American University of Beirut hospital.

“We call on all sides in this conflict to respect the work of journalists covering the fighting,” Simon added. “Journalists like all civilians cannot be targeted under the rules of war.”