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PCHR condemns Israeli verdict on death of Reuters photographer

Aug. 14, 2008 9:45 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 14, 2008 9:45 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Shortly after the verdict to releive the tank crew which killed Reuters photojournalist Fadil Shana'a on 16 April 2008, was delivered by an Israeli military court, the Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned the decision.

The center issued a public statement saying that the ruling opened the door for press to be the lawful targets of Israeli fire.

In a letter to Reuters from Israeli Brigadier General Avihai Mendelblit, the Israeli decision was spelled out for the news agency.

"The tank crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod," stated Mendelbilt. He continued saying that they could not "positively identify it as [either] an anti-tank missile, a mortar or a television camera." Mendelblit also wrote that "In light of the reasonable conclusion reached by the tank crew and its superiors that the characters were hostile, and were carrying an object most likely to be a weapon, the decision to fire at the target. was sound."

PCHR findings, however, "strongly refute" those of Mendelbilt. In fact, the organization says that what they found out "proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Israeli Forces willfully killed journalist Shana'a and the three other civilians who died alongside him."

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, Fadel Shana'a and his colleague, Wafa Abu Mezyed, a Reuters soundman, arrived at Juhor al-Din area at 17:00, an hour after an Israeli missile attack in the village had killed 9 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children. The two men were wearing bullet proof vests emblazoned with the word "PRESS."

Television footage showed the jeep, with large signs reading "Press" and "TV" with a gaping hole blown in the driver's side.

The group stated that they felt the "decision indicates that journalists can be fired on by troops simply based on an apparent suspicion concerning the filming equipment they may be carrying."

No legal action will be taken against the soldiers from the tank crew.

***updated 19:40 Bethlehem time

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