Another media building hit by Israeli fire

New York, January 15, 2009–The Israeli government must ensure that media facilities are not targeted in the conflict in Gaza, the Committee to Protects Journalists said today. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired at least one missile today directly at a Gaza City building that houses multiple news organizations, injuring at least two journalists and forcing others to evacuate, Reuters reported.

Reuters, Fox News, Al-Arabiya, and more than a dozen other regional and international news organizations and production companies are located in Al-Shuruq Tower. Abu Dhabi TV said in a statement that Bureau Chief Aiman al-Razi and cameraman Muhammad al-Susi were injured in the attack. Both are being treated at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, according to the statement. Reuters reported that the injuries were not life-threatening. 

Shrapnel hit the Reuters office, forcing staff to evacuate but not causing injuries, the news agency reported. Live video footage from Reuters and the Ramattan news agency shows smoke rising from the building. Al-Arabiya correspondent Hanan al-Masri, who was on-air when the attack occurred, was forced to abandon the live broadcast midway. The station aired that footage again in a subsequent broadcast.

Reuters reported that the Israeli military had contacted the news agency minutes before the attack to confirm the location of its Gaza office. Reuters also noted that the Israeli military, which has had GPS coordinates for Reuters and other news organizations since the start of the conflict, had given the news agency numerous assurances that it would not become a target.

“The latest strikes by the IDF will further staunch the already limited information currently emerging from Gaza,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Combined with the ban on international journalists entering Gaza, Israeli strikes are crippling the work of the media. We call urgently for greater care and restraint.”

An Israeli military spokesperson told Reuters that Hamas militants had taken over a media office in the area late on Wednesday. Reuters reported that its journalists did not see gunmen near the building before it was hit. 

“We’ve endeavored to tell the story well and fairly around the world,” said Reuters Editor-in-Chief and CPJ board member David Schlesinger. “That means having people on the ground in places where there is fighting. But what we can’t have is their lives endangered by missiles.”

A fire in the basement of the building destroyed a power generator and has disrupted communications equipment, according to Russian news channel Russia Today, whose offices are also in Al-Shuruq Tower.

Media facilities have come under Israeli fire multiple times since the military campaign started on December 27. On January 9, the IDF hit the rooftop of Al-Johara Tower, which houses more than 20 international news organizations. Al-Jazeera reported that at least one journalist was injured while filing a report from the roof. On January 5, the IDF bombed the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala newsweekly, according to regional news agencies. On December 29, the IDF reportedly bombed the headquarters of Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, destroying the building entirely.