Cameraman shot by Israeli forces while covering Gaza clashes

New York, July 6, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by Thursday’s shooting of a Palestinian cameraman by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Imad Ghanem, a cameraman for the Hamas-affiliated satellite channel Al-Aqsa, was filming paramedics transferring victims of an Israeli tank shell in the eastern part of Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza when Israeli tanks began firing at them and other residents in the area, according to Sameer al-Bouji, a cameraman for the Pal-Media news agency who filmed the incident. Ghanem was shot in the leg and fell to the ground, al-Bouji told CPJ. The footage, which was broadcast on Al-Jazeera, shows the cameraman being shot twice more in the legs from a distance as he lay injured, his camera beside him. According to news reports, both of Ghanem’s legs were amputated.

Al-Bouji told CPJ that at the time there were no clashes between Hamas gunmen and Israeli soldiers. Residents of the camp tried to help the cameraman but came under heavy fire, he said. Al-Bouji told CPJ that he, an AFP photographer, and a Turkish Ihlas News Agency cameraman were fired upon as they attempted to move Ghanem to safety. The shooting was coming from the Israeli army, al-Bouji said, estimating the tanks were less than 150 meters (165 yards) away.

A second eyewitness, who requested anonymity, corroborated the account in an interview with CPJ, although that source noted that some armed residents of the camp were in the vicinity.

“We are horrified by the Israeli force’s apparent targeting of cameraman Imad Ghanem,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “He was carrying out legitimate journalistic duties when he was seriously wounded. Deliberate targeting of journalists cannot be justified. We call on the Israeli army to investigate this incident fully and make its findings public.”

An Israeli army spokesman who reviewed the footage shown on Al-Jazeera said the incident was being investigated, but said it unclear who shot the cameraman, The New York Times reported. The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Friday. An Israeli military source was quoted by international news sources, including the Times and Reuters, as saying that Israel does not recognize cameramen working for the Hamas-affiliated channel as journalists. The Israeli army denies deliberately targeting journalists.

“It is outrageous to suggest that it’s justifiable to target a cameraman filming events no matter what his political orientation,” Simon said.

Al-Aqsa was launched in January 2006 by Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that currently controls Gaza. Its programming has been widely accused of inciting violence against Israel. In particular, a children’s program launched in mid-April called “Tomorrow’s Pioneers” and featuring a character named Farfur that resembles Disney’s Mickey Mouse, made international headlines when a media watchdog revealed the show was urging children to take up violent resistance against Israel. The channel’s news coverage reflects a pro-Hamas line.

Reuters reported that Israeli forces also fired at a one of its camera crews and other journalists who were covering the clashes from a rooftop in central Gaza, but no one was injured. No further details were reported.

Israel launched an incursion into central Gaza early on Thursday to search for wanted militants and tunnels used to smuggle weapons into Gaza. The operation left 10 Palestinian militants and one civilian dead. Israel withdrew its troops overnight.