Smoke billows from a Gaza City neighborhood after an Israeli airstrike. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Smoke billows from a Gaza City neighborhood after an Israeli airstrike. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

At least three journalists injured by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza

New York, July 18, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Israeli airstrikes on buildings housing media outlets in Gaza that injured at least three journalists. The strikes came as Israel engages in a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“The Israel Defense Forces know where media outlets are located in Gaza and must ensure that they are not hit as part of its offensive,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Attacking media outlets is a violation of international law and denies journalists their right to protection as civilians in war zone.”

Early today, Muhammad Shabat, cameraman for the Palestinian news agency Watania Media Agency, was hospitalized briefly for hand injuries sustained after an Israeli airstrike hit the Al-Jawhara tower in Gaza City, news reports said. The building houses Watania as well as other Palestinian media outlets and apartments, many of which were also damaged in the airstrike, according to the station and news reports.

Hani Ghazal, Watania’s communications officer, told CPJ that a helicopter carried out the strike on the eighth floor of the building, where the agency is located. The agency has shut down two of its production studios but is still operating.

On Wednesday, Ahmad al-Ajala, host of Sawt al-Watan radio station, and Tariq Hamdieh, correspondent for the station, were briefly hospitalized for foot injuries after an Israeli airstrike on the Daoud building in Gaza City, according to the station and news reports. The Sawt al-Watan radio station is located on the 14th floor of the building.

Loui Abou Amr, the station manager, told the local press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms that the station had shut down because the attack destroyed its broadcasting equipment.

Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Col. Avital Leibovich and Major Zohar Halevi of IDF’s public affairs department did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emails seeking comment. CPJ’s calls to the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit and to Capt. Eytan Buchman, head of the unit’s North American media desk, were not answered.

On Thursday, Israel ordered foreign journalists to evacuate beach hotels in Gaza amid stated plans to expand the ground invasion of the city, according to news reports. At least two foreign journalists entering Gaza today said on Twitter that they were required to sign a form that absolves the IDF of responsibility in the event of their injury or death.

Last week, Hamid Shihab, driver for the Gaza-based press agency Media 24, was killed in an airstrike by Israel Defense Forces. Shihab was in a car clearly marked as a press vehicle. The IDF has not yet responded to CPJ’s requests for comment on that case.

In November 2012, Israeli airstrikes targeted two buildings, Al-Shawa and Housari Tower and Al-Shuruq Tower, in Gaza, which were well-known for housing numerous international and local news organizations. At least seven journalists were injured in the attacks. Israel claimed the individuals and facilities it had targeted had connections to terrorist activity, but failed to adequately respond to CPJ’s repeated requests for evidence that the journalists had lost their protected civilian status.