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An employee checks the damage in a studio after a raid by assailants on the offices of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in Gaza City on Friday, January 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Unknown assailants ransack broadcaster's office in Gaza

January 7, 2019 2:07 PM ET

Beirut, January 7, 2019 -- The Palestinian authorities in Gaza should immediately investigate the January 4 attack on the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)-affiliated Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) in Gaza and swiftly bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Five unknown assailants carrying knives, sticks, and other weapons stormed the PBC headquarters in Gaza City's Tel al-Hawa neighborhood and vandalized the office, destroying cameras and editing and broadcasting equipment, according to news reports, footage shared by the PBC on social media, the local press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA), and the regional press freedom group Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.

"Being a journalist in the Palestinian territories is already difficult and dangerous work," CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said from New York. "The last thing our colleagues there need is to be the target of inter-Palestinian political rivalries. All sides in Gaza should ensure that journalists can work freely and securely no matter what outlet they work for."

Rafaat al-Qadra, general director of PBC in the Gaza Strip, was cited by Skeyes describing how the assailants, one of whom was masked, stormed the PBC office.

"There was only a security guard, who couldn't prevent them from entering, because they were larger in number and carried dangerous weapons. They destroyed cameras and the recording studio," al-Qadra told Skeyes.

According to MADA, the assailants smashed seven broadcast cameras, the office's security cameras, several editing devices, three mixing consoles, and two USB devices.

PBC chairman Ahmad Assaf and PNA officials, including the spokesperson for the Palestinian security services Major General Adnan al-Dumeiri, hastened to blame Hamas for the attack. PBC is funded by the Fatah political party, a political rival of Hamas. On January 5, Gaza authorities arrested five Palestinians on suspicion of ransacking the office, news reports said.

The same reports said that all five suspects were former PNA employees whose salaries were recently suspended. The PNA has not commented on the arrests.

In April 2018, the PNA cut the salaries of civil servants in Gaza by 30 percent, triggering mass protests and strikes in the Gaza Strip, according to news reports.

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