Reporters Without Borders condemns Israeli strikes

Last updated 07:31 19/11/2012

An Israeli air strike on a media centre in Gaza City wounds journalists, while the country's Iron Dome air defence system shoots down rockets aimed at Tel Aviv.

MEDIA TARGETED: Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on an office of Hamas television channel Al-Aqsa in Gaza City.
MEDIA TARGETED: Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on an office of Hamas television channel Al-Aqsa in Gaza City.
PREPARING FOR INVASION: Israeli soldiers take part in a drill simulating a possible ground invasion into the Gaza Strip.
PREPARING FOR INVASION: Israeli soldiers take part in a drill simulating a possible ground invasion into the Gaza Strip.

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Reporters Without Borders has condemned Israeli missile attacks on two media centres in Gaza that wounded six Palestinian journalists and damaged the equipment of foreign media outlets.

The attacks on the two high-rise buildings damaged offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al Quds TV, seen as sympathetic to the Islamists. Germany's public broadcaster ARD; Russia Today, a state TV network that broadcasts in English; and Sky News Arabia said they lost equipment in the attacks.

A Gaza press association said six Palestinian journalists were wounded, including one who lost a leg.

Christophe Deloire, the director of Reporters Without Borders' international headquarters in Paris, called the attacks unjustified and a threat to freedom of information. He demanded an investigation into the circumstances of the raid.

"Even though the outlets targeted are linked to Hamas, it does not legitimise the attacks," he said. "Attacks against civilian targets constitute war crimes."

The Israeli military said the strikes targeted Hamas communications equipment on the buildings' rooftops and accused the group of using journalists as "human shields."

Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, urged journalists to stay clear of Hamas bases and facilities.

In Moscow, Russia Today, a state TV network that broadcasts in English, reported that the office of its Arabic-language channel, Rusiya Al-Yaum, was heavily damaged in the strike but none of the crew was injured.

"Fortunately for them, they had left the Shawa building about an hour before the Israeli planes delivered the strike. RT's office was damaged, so the crew will move to a less-affected floor of the centre."

Germany's public broadcaster ARD said its Gaza office was hit.

"Thanks God, nobody was injured," said correspondent Markus Rosch in a blog entry on the broadcaster's website. "At night, I went to bed hoping for a ceasefire. But in the morning it went off again on both sides. Our ARD office in Gaza was also hit."

The attack on the second media centre shattered a lull in rocket attacks from Gaza that had taken hold the previous night and coincided with Egyptian-led efforts to negotiate an end to the five-day-old confrontation.

Bassem Madhoun, an employee of Dubai TV, said two missiles hit the 15th floor of the building where Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV studio is located. Rescue workers evacuated several people who had been wounded.

Building windows were blown out and glass shards and debris were scattered on the street below. Some of the journalists who had been inside the building at the time were taking cover in the entrance hallway.

Mohammed Shrafi, a Palestinian cameraman, said he was in the street filming when he was hit by shrapnel coming down from the building.

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Asked why Israel was targeting media centres, he replied, "they want to keep us from telling the truth."

Sky News Arabia issued a statement condemning the attacks and saying they caused extensive damage to its property and "considerable and unacceptable distress to our staff." Sky News Arabia is a joint venture between BSkyB in Britain and the Abu Dhabi Investment Corp, based in Abu Dhabi.

The statement claimed the Israeli attacks "targeted journalists covering the current military operations in Gaza" and demanded "that Israeli authorities respect and abide by the international conventions not to target media and to ensure the safety of journalists covering conflict zones."

Meanwhile, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra reported that the Palestinian death toll from the operation had risen to 49 after a civilian died of wounds sustained in an Israeli airstrike. Earlier Sunday, he said two Gaza teenagers were killed when another building was hit.

Three Israeli civilians have also been killed since the confrontation began on Wednesday.

Israel is reluctant to let up without signs a truce would hold.

Overnight, aircraft targeted dozens of underground rocket launchers, and a major Hamas training base and command center, the military said. It said it also attacked a communications antenna.

Israeli gunboats also fired on militant sites on the Gaza shore line, the military said in a statement, without elaborating. 

- AP

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