Nazih Darwazeh, a Palestinian cameraman for The Associated Press Television News (APTN), was shot and killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus while filming clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli troops at around 9 a.m. on April 19, 2003, according to news reports and Palestinian journalists who witnessed the incident. Video footage of the incident, reviewed by CPJ, appears to corroborate their accounts.
The shooting occurred after clashes erupted in Nablus when Israeli forces entered the city’s downtown area in tanks, searching for an alleged Palestinian suicide bomber. Clashes broke out in several locations near the city’s center, involving youths throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli troops. Some Palestinian gunmen were also observed firing guns, according to press accounts.
At the time that Darwazeh was shot, he had been filming an Israeli tank stranded at the corner of an alleyway. Darwazeh, 45, and several other Palestinian journalists were standing by a door in the alleyway. A few minutes before Darwazeh was killed, Reuters cameraman Hassan Titi filmed a group of Palestinian youths running down the alley away from the stranded tank. Titi and Reuters photographer Abed Qusini, who were standing near Darwazeh, said that an Israeli soldier crouched under the tank and quickly fired a single shot at the journalists from a distance of about 11 to 22 yards (10 or 20 meters). Darwazeh was struck in the back of the head and died instantly.
Titi and Qusini said there were no clashes or gunfire in the alley at the time, although there had been some Palestinian gunfire in the vicinity earlier. The AP reported that gunfire may have struck near the tank at around the same time, but that it likely came from a different direction from where Darwazeh was standing.
Maj. Sharon Feingold, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was quoted by the AP as saying that Israeli troops had been rescuing the stranded tank when they were attacked with stones, and “explosive devices and shots were fired from the crowd.” Despite eyewitness accounts and video footage, the IDF said that it was unclear who fired the shot that killed Darwazeh.
Darwazeh and his colleagues were clearly identified as members of the press, based on the testimony of those at the scene and the video footage of the events. Those sources said that Darwazeh was wearing a fluorescent jacket marked “Press,” and before the shooting, the journalists said they shouted loudly in both English and Hebrew indicating that they were with the media.
After the killing, The Associated Press commissioned an independent investigation that “concluded that the fatal bullet could only have come from the position where the Israeli soldier was standing,” according to AP Vice President John Daniszewski in a 2023 email to CPJ.
Daniszewski told CPJ that Nigel Baker, the then-content director of APTN, flew to Israel and presented the investigation to an Israeli officer, who suggested that the IDF conduct its own probe, but “AP never heard results of such an investigation or whether one was undertaken at all.”
A 2003 Reporters Without Borders report found the IDF did make some cursory attempts at looking into the killing, but that other journalists at the scene were only interviewed “informally.” One was summoned to meet with an army official seemingly in order to calm tensions.
CPJ asked the IDF about Darwazeh and other cases of IDF killings of journalists in an April 2023 email. The IDF did not respond to the query about Darwazeh’s case but said “it sees great importance in preserving the freedom of the press and the professional work of journalists.”
This report was updated on April 25, 2023.