ISRAEL and the Occupied Territories

including the

Palestinian Authority Territories

Middle East and North Africa cases 2004: Country List    I   Middle East and North Africa Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JANUARY 8, 2004
Posted: January 29, 2004

Saifeddin Shahin, Al-Arabiyya

Shahin, Gaza correspondent for the Dubai-based satellite news channel, Al-Arabiyya, was attacked and beaten by five armed men after the car he was in was stopped by the men at a major Gaza city intersection.

Shahin told CPJ that the attack, which occurred at around 1 p.m. and was witnessed by several pedestrians and people in other cars, lasted a few minutes. Shahin said that the armed men, four of whom were hooded stopped the car forced Shahin out of the vehicle. A passenger that was traveling with Shahin was not allowed to exit the car and was not assaulted.

Shahin said the men beat him with their fists, clubs, and rifle butts and fired shots in the air, scaring pedestrians and, according to Shahin, damaging a building in the vicinity. Shahin said that the man, who was not wearing a hood, claimed that they were from Fatah, a Palestinian militant group linked to Yasser Arafat, and told Shahin not to talk about Fatah again in his reports. Shahin said that he was treated at a local hospital for injuries to his shoulder, arm, head, and back.

Shahin said that he did not know what segment triggered the attack, but said that recently he had done a piece on a Fatah celebration marking the anniversary of the founding of the group. Shahin thinks that the station's reporting on internal cracks within Fatah may be the source of the attack. A colleague of Shahin's thought that what may have upset Fatah was that the celebration was portrayed as disorganized.

Shahin said that he received threatening phone calls from people claiming to represent Fatah a few days before the attack. He also said that a Fatah official spokesman denied Fatah's involvement in the attack, but expressed apologies for what happened to Shahin. According to Shahin, the group is very fragmented and a certain faction of the group could have been responsible.

Shahin said that based on his descriptions of the unhooded armed man to Palestinian Authority police, a man was detained soon after the attack, but released after a short detention. Shahin said that he doubts that anybody will be apprehended and prosecuted for the attack.

FEBRUARY 2, 2004
Posted: February 5, 2004

Al-Quds Educational Television
Haroun Abu Arrah, Al-Quds Educational Television
Abdel Ghani Velbiessi, Al-Quds Educational Television


At around 4:00 a.m. on Monday, February 2, three masked Palestinian men carrying automatic rifles stormed the offices of the Ramallah-based Al-Quds Educational Television, according to staff. Assistant Manager Haroun Abu Arrah, one of two station employees present at the time, told CPJ that one of the men demanded a "tape," and when Abu Arrah asked for clarification the assailants began beating him and intern Velbiessi with rifle butts and fists.

Abu Arrah said that after the beating, two of the assailants went into another room and fired several rounds at some of the station’s equipment, destroying computer screens and video equipment. During the shooting, Abu Arrah and Velbiessi fled the building.

Abu Arrah and station Director Ayman Bardawil said Palestinian police are investigating the incident, but that no arrests have been made. Neither men are aware of a motive for the assault and noted that the station had not aired anything controversial in recent days, nor had it received any threats.

FEBRUARY 3, 2004
Posted: February 5, 2004


Employees of the recently established Gaza City weekly newspaper Al-Daar discovered when they returned to work from the Eid al-Adha holiday that day that most of the computer equipment in the office had been destroyed by unknown assailants. Hassan al-Kashif, the magazine’s editor in chief, told CPJ he believes that the vandalism came in retaliation for the magazine’s editorial stance against official Palestinian corruption.

Palestinian sources told CPJ that Al-Daar—which is close to former Palestinian preventive security chief Mohamed Dahlan, who is a leader in Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization—may have been attacked because of internal political conflicts within Fatah.

MARCH 9, 2004
Posted: March 9, 2004

Saif Dahla, Agence-France Presse

Palestinian photographer Saif Dahla was shot by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the West Bank city of Jenin. Two witnesses-Dahla's brother, Reuters photographer Said Dahla and Reuters cameraman Ali Samoudi-told CPJ that there were about half a dozen journalists standing together on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood in Jenin, covering an Israeli incursion into the city in the early afternoon when the shooting occurred.

Said Dahla and Samoudi said that Saif Dahla was shot when a soldier in a tank about 20 meters (22 yards) away fired a few rounds from a machine gun. One of the bullets, or shrapnel, injured Saif Dahla in his left leg. The journalists said that prior to the incident, Palestinian youths had been throwing stones at the tank, but that when the shooting occurred, the area was quiet. Samoudi said that gunfire exchanges between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the city prior to the incident did not occur in the vicinity where the journalists were working.

Both journalists said that they were clearly identifiable as members of the press, wearing flak jackets, helmets, and marked clothing. They also said that they had been working in the area for more than an hour, adding that the Israeli soldiers in the tank that fired upon them and in other vehicles that were in the vicinity had seen them working the whole time.

According to the journalists, when Dahla was shot, they rushed him into a nearby home, and an ambulance arrived later to take him to a local hospital. Both journalists said that as they were moving Dahla into the house, another burst of gunfire came from the tank.

Said Dahla told CPJ that his brother went home after being treated for his wounds, which he said were not serious.

An Israeli army spokesperson, Major Sharon Feingold told CPJ that Israeli troops entered Jenin to arrest a "senior terrorist," and that "there was a massive exchange of gunfire, it seems as if an AFP photographer was very lightly wounded." Feingold added that the soldiers involved in today's operation are being debriefed, and that the army is "trying to find out if it was IDF gunfire that accidentally injured the photographer."

MARCH 22, 2004
Posted: March 23, 2004

Mohamed Abu Halima, journalism student and radio correspondent for Al-Najah

According to local Palestinian journalists, Abu Halima, who was a journalism student at Al-Najah University in Nablus and a correspondent for university-affiliated Al-Najah radio station, was shot at the entrance of the Balata refugee camp, outside the city of Nablus. Abu Halima, who also worked as a freelance photographer, was reporting on Israeli troop activity near the camp.

Moaz Shraida, a producer and host at the station who was speaking to the journalist moments before he was killed, said that Abu Halima described three Israeli jeeps about a mile (2 kilometers) away from the camp’s entrance, where he was standing. Shraida said that Abu Halima told him that he had begun to take photographs of the jeeps. Shraida said that he then heard gunfire and lost contact with Abu Halima.

Shraida spoke later to Abu Halima’s cousin who was at the scene. The cousin said that Abu Halima was struck by Israeli gunfire in the stomach and died at a local hospital. CPJ has not been able to speak with Abu Halima’s cousin or independently confirm his account.

A family member of Abu Halima told CPJ that Abu Halima was dressed in street clothing the day of the shooting. Local journalists told CPJ that witnesses they spoke to said that Abu Halima was standing among a crowd of people at the entrance of the camp when he was shot. The journalists also said that prior to the shooting there had been clashes in the area between Palestinian youths and the Israeli army.

In a voicemail message to CPJ, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Force who identified himself as Sam Weiderman said that "as far as we know, [Abu Halima] was not a journalist"; that Abu Halima "was armed and he opened fire on IDF forces"; and that the IDF "returned fire."

CPJ is continuing to investigate the case.

APRIL 23, 2004

Posted: July 23, 2004

Jamal Aruri, Agence France-Presse

Aruri, a photographer with the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), was severely beaten by three masked Palestinians armed with sticks and clubs when he exited his car near his home in Ramallah late in the evening.

Aruri and another Palestinian journalist familiar with the case believe that the attackers were affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, possibly militants with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is considered close to Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah movement.

Aruri said the attack stemmed from a photo he had taken several months earlier outside the Muqata, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. He said that the photo was of several men who were wanted by Israeli authorities who had either been summoned to, or had taken refuge in, Arafat's compound.

Aruri said that Arafat's office harassed him and warned him to be careful about what he photographed after AFP published the photo but said that he was not physically harmed.

In April, AFP did a story on Arafat expelling wanted militants from his compound, some of whom were in the photo that Aruri had taken. Aruri said the original photo he had taken was still accessible on AFP's archive and on Web sites, and that it was published again.

He said that the militants who were in his photo were angered by its republication, and that they, or someone sent by them, attacked him, beating him repeatedly with clubs and sticks. The assault was so brutal that Aruri broke his left arm, severely cut his right hand, and had numerous bruises all over his face and body.

The assailants also destroyed two of his cameras and some computer equipment he had with him at the time. Aruri could not work for more than a month due to his injuries and is still given less rigorous assignments.

After complaints by Palestinian journalists to the Palestinian Authority, Aruri received an apology from the Palestinian Authority.

MAY 19, 2004

Posted: May 20, 2004

James Bennet, The New York Times

Three Palestinian men attempted to abduct Bennet, the Jerusalem correspondent for The New York Times, while he was standing outside Al-Najar Hospital, near Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

According to Bennet, who described the incident in a story published in The Times, at least three Palestinian men attempted the kidnapping while he stood outside the hospital talking on his cell phone. Bennet wrote that a "stranger approached offering a handshake, a smile and the word, 'Welcome.'" When the journalist went to shake the man's hand, a second man grabbed him and tried to push him into a Mercedes car that pulled up at the scene.

After Bennet struggled with the men and shouted for help, Palestinian police officers rushed to the scene, and the men fled in the car. Bennet said that while at the hospital, he had identified himself as an American.

A motive for the attempted abduction is unclear. However, Bennet said in his dispatch that, "Anger at Americans has been building here for three years over the Bush administration's perceived tilt toward Israel, the occupation of Iraq and, most recently, images of prisoner abuse in Iraq....An American might also be considered valuable for use in bargaining with Israel."

MAY 26, 2004
Posted: June 10, 2004

Peter Hounam, BBC

Hounam, a freelance journalist from Britain, was detained overnight by Israel's internal security services, Shin Bet.

The journalist was in the country working on a documentary for the BBC on Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear whistleblower who was recently released after spending 18 years in an Israeli prison for revealing nuclear secrets to Hounam. In 1986, Hounam broke the story of Israel's nuclear program by writing an article for the London-based Sunday Times.

The terms of Vanunu's release prohibit him from meeting with foreigners, including members of the foreign press, unless approved by government authorities.

Hounam wrote an article describing his detention, which was published in the Sunday Times on May 30. In the article, Hounam said he was detained as he was driving to the home of Yael Lotan, an Israeli journalist who had conducted interviews with Vanunu on his behalf for the documentary. Israeli plainclothes agents took Hounam back to his hotel, where they searched his room and confiscated his belongings.

Hounam said he was then taken to the Shin Bet's offices in Jerusalem for questioning, where he spent the night. Agents questioned him about the whereabouts of the Vanunu interview tapes. The next day, officials told Hounam he was suspected of "spying on Israeli nuclear secrets."

Authorities released the journalist on the evening of May 27 and returned his personal belongings after the British Embassy and Hounam's Israeli attorneys intervened on his behalf. The journalist left Israel on May 28.

A few days before Hounam's detention, Chris Mitchell, a BBC producer working with Hounam, was briefly detained at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Officials confiscated Mitchell's videotapes and his cell phone. The journalist's belongings were never returned.

MAY 5, 2004
Posted: June 16, 2004

Mahmoud Al-Hams, Agence-France Press

Al-Hams, a photographer working with Agence France-Presse, was injured by shrapnel and bullet wounds from Israel Defense Forces fire to both legs as he was working in Deir El Balah, a town in central Gaza, according to the journalist and several press reports.

Al-Hams told CPJ that he and several other journalists had gone to the area in the morning to cover an Israeli incursion into the town. He said that he and several other journalists wore clothing and gear clearly identifying themselves as journalists. The Associated Press, citing witnesses, reported that there were no armed clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers at the time. Al-Hams said Palestinian youths were throwing stones at the Israeli troops and tanks, which he and other journalists were photographing or filming. One Palestinian journalist at the scene who spoke to CPJ confirmed Al-Hams's account.

Al-Hams said that he was about 50 meters (165 feet) away from the Israeli troop position, which included at least one tank, and that he and other Palestinian journalists were not standing near the young Palestinians.

Al-Hams was wounded when machine gunfire from an Israeli tank struck him in both legs. He said he saw the Israeli soldier fire in his direction. Press reports said several other people were wounded in the incident. Al-Hams told CPJ that his injuries were not serious. He left the hospital after one night.

One day after the shooting, a spokesman for the Israeli army announced that the circumstances of the incident were under investigation, according to Agence-France Presse. The press agency's Jerusalem bureau told CPJ that it had heard nothing since then.

JULY 20, 2004
Posted: July 21, 2004

All journalists

The pro–Palestinian Authority Palestinian Journalists' Association threatened local journalists covering internal strife among Palestinian militant and political organizations. According to Reuters, which reported a partial text of the statement, the association announced a ban "on dealing with or handling any type of statements that touch on internal events and carry between their lines words that slander, libel or harm others." The statement said journalists who violated this code would be punished, though it did not specify the punishment.

Several Palestinian journalists told CPJ they have ignored the order but have become more cautious in their reporting for fear of reprisal.

Similarly, in August 2002, the syndicate tried to bar journalists from photographing Palestinian children wearing military uniforms or carrying weapons, arguing that such footage violated children's rights and served "the interests of Israel and its propaganda against the Palestinian people." The order was rescinded a few days later amid local and international protest.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2004
Posted: September 28, 2004

Riad Ali, CNN

Ali, a veteran CNN producer, was kidnapped at gunpoint from a car on a main street in Gaza City. Ali had arrived in Gaza just hours before gunmen seized him from a car at about 6:30 p.m. local time. CNN colleagues, including correspondent Ben Wedeman, were also passengers in the car. A veteran CNN producer, Ali had handled a number of earlier assignments in Gaza.

Ali was freed the next day. CNN said a tape surfaced shortly before Ali's release in which the producer said he was being held by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant Palestinian group with ties to Fatah, the group headed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Ali said on the tape that he is a Druze, a minority Arab population in Israel whose members often serve in the Israeli army. He called for the Druze not to serve in the Israeli army. No other demands were made.