Raffaele Ciriello, an Italian freelance photographer who was on assignment for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was killed on March 13, 2002, by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to press reports and eyewitness testimony. Ciriello, 42, was the first foreign journalist killed while covering the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, which began in September 2000. The photographer died after being hit by a burst of machine gun fire from the direction of an Israeli tank during an Israeli military offensive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Amedeo Ricucci of the Italian television station Rai Uno told CPJ that he and his cameraman were accompanying Ciriello and trailing a group of Palestinian gunmen at the time of the incident. Ricucci said the area was quiet and was located roughly 500 yards (455 meters) to a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) from a nearby refugee camp where fighting between Israelis and Palestinians was taking place.
The three journalists were standing inside a building off an alleyway, Ricucci said. Shortly afterward, a tank emerged at one end of the street 150 to 200 yards (135 to 180 meters) away, he said. Ciriello left the building and pointed his camera at the tank. He then came under fire without warning. Ciriello was shot six times and died of his wounds soon after.
At least one Palestinian gunman was in Ciriello’s vicinity at the time of the shooting, according to press reports. The Italian government has demanded a full investigation into the attack.
After Ciriello’s death, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson was unable to provide details about the circumstances of the shooting and claimed to have no information about the presence of journalists in Ramallah, which the IDF said was a closed military area at the time. The IDF added that journalists who entered the area were “endangering” themselves.
However, an Israeli Government Press Office official told the Boston Globe in March 2002, “From that distance, I’m sure it looked like the guy was getting into a firing position and was about to shoot.”
In late August 2002, the IDF said that there was “no evidence and no knowledge of an [army] force that fired in the direction of the photographer,” according to Haaretz.
CPJ asked the IDF about Ciriello and other cases of IDF killings of journalists in an April 2023 email. The IDF did not respond to the query about Ciriello’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.