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After six weeks of near blackout, foreign press to re-enter Gaza

Jan. 1, 2009 12:30 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2009 12:30 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - After more than a month of near media blackout Israel announced Thursday its decision to slowly allow foreign journalists into Gaza.

Starting 11 November members of the international press reported that they were being turned away from Erez crossing.

A journalist for a major international news organization, speaking anonymously on Monday said that he had been attempting to enter Gaza consistently since 9 November and was denied entry each time.

After one week of non-access for the international press, media outlets condemned the Israeli policy as an unprecedented violation of press freedom. The Foreign Press Association (FPA) submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court.

Israeli officials cited the "volatile security situation in Gaza" as a risk to the safety of the international press as justification for the blackout.

While a few members of the press were in fact in Gaza, it was only because they were either Palestinians with Gazan ID cards unable to leave, or internationals who insisted on remaining in the Strip. Only a small handful of reporters remained in the Strip, making information on the Israeli strikes throughout November and early December scarce.

Pressure to allow foreign journalists into Gaza increased as Israel began Operation Cast Lead, which has so far killed more than 400 Palestinians, at least 15% of which are said to be children.

On Thursday Israel announced that it would allow eight journalists at a time through the Erez crossing "when it is open." It has been totally closed since 27 December when heavy airstrikes began.

According to the Israeli press, the court ordered FPA to compile a narrow list of reporters wishing to enter the area by Thursday morning.

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