New York, November 19, 2012–Israeli authorities must immediately halt airstrikes targeting news media offices in the Gaza Strip, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today following a series of strikes that injured at least nine journalists and damaged several offices.
“Israel should respect its obligations under international law and immediately halt its attacks against news media offices,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities know these buildings are home to numerous news organizations whose employees are civilians protected by international law.”
A series of airstrikes beginning early Sunday and continuing today targeted two buildings, Al-Shawa and Housari Tower and Al-Shuruq Tower, which are well-known for housing numerous international and local news organizations, news reports said. The attacks damaged the offices of Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds TV, Sky News, Russia Today, Al-Arabiya, and the independent Bethlehem-based Ma’an News Agency, according to news reports. Both Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds TV are affiliated with Hamas, the Islamic party governing the Gaza Strip. Several other international and local news organizations, including Reuters, The Associated Press, and CNN, also have offices in the targeted buildings.
At least seven journalists were injured in the first attack at 2 a.m., when missiles hit the 11th floor of the Al-Shawa and Housari Tower, which is home to Al-Quds TV, news reports said. Khader al-Zahhar, a cameraman for Al-Quds TV, lost his right leg in the explosion and was taken to an Egyptian hospital for treatment, the reports said. Other Al-Quds TV journalists–Omar al-Ifranji, Hussein al-Madhoun, Ibrahim Labed, Mohamed al-Akhras, Darwish Bulbul, and Hazim al-Daawar–were also injured by shrapnel, news reports said.
At about 7 a.m., the second airstrike hit the 15th floor of the nearby Al-Shuruq Tower, home to Al-Aqsa TV, news reports said. No Al-Aqsa journalists were reported injured, but the office was completely destroyed, according to news reports.
Abdel-Ghani Jaber, director of a private Palestinian media production company, told Reuters that two of his employees were hurt when the blast shattered the windows of their office in Al-Shuruq Tower. Jaber did not name the journalists.
Al-Shuruq Tower was hit again by an Israeli airstrike on Monday afternoon, but no journalists were immediately reported wounded, according to news reports.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told Al-Jazeera English that the airstrikes were “not targeting journalists” and that “No foreign journalists were hurt whatsoever” in the attacks. He did not comment on the local journalists who had been wounded.
Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said the military was aware that journalists were present in the building but that their target was an antenna being used by Hamas: “Hamas took a civilian building and used it for its own needs. So the journalists … were serving as human shields for Hamas,” Reuters quoted Leibovich as saying.
In a separate episode, local journalists reported that the Israeli military briefly took over Gaza radio airwaves on Sunday to broadcast a warning to journalists and civilians: “We recommend that you stay away from the places of terrorists and the infrastructure of Hamas,” the warning said. Al-Aqsa TV also reported on Monday that their transmissions had been briefly intercepted by the Israeli military, which caused static on their airwaves for several hours, Agence France-Presse reported.
On Monday, The New York Times reported that a drone attack had killed the driver of a vehicle believed to be a taxi that was being used by journalists and identified with “Press” signs. News accounts did not report further details, including which journalists had hired the car.
These attacks come amid continuous Israeli airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip since last week, in which dozens of Palestinians have been killed, according to news reports.
CPJ documented a wave of attacks against the media by Israel in a month-long barrage of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.
- For more information and data about Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, visit CPJ’s Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories page here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This text has been modified to reflect the correct spelling of Mohamed al-Akhras’s name.