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Israel 'trying to silence' the press in Gaza

Nov. 18, 2012 4:36 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 21, 2012 3:16 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian journalists rights group accused Israel on Sunday of targeting journalists in the Gaza Strip, after Israeli warplanes bombed two media buildings.

Mada says Israel is "trying to silence the press in Gaza and its crimes against journalists must not go unpunished."

In a statement, the group said it "strongly condemns the renewed Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and the direct targeting of a number of journalists and media institutions."

Israeli airstrikes hit two media headquarters in Gaza City, including the building that houses Ma'an's Gaza office, early Sunday.

There is no military infrastructure of any kind inside the building.

At least six journalists were hurt in the first strike, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 10 journalists and media professionals were hurt in the bombings.

Israel's army says the buildings are part of "Hamas' operational communications."

Mada, which is based in Ramallah, called for protecting journalists and to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes against press and freedom of expression.

"The evasion from punishment of the Israeli occupation forces ... especially with regard to its crimes against the four journalists killed during the aggression on Gaza in 2009, enabled such occupation forces to commit further crimes against journalists and the media," Mada said.

An Israeli army statement said one building was targeted because it is "an infrastructure of Hamas' operational communications, located inside a civilian building."

"As a result, and in order to minimize the damage to non involved persons, the (army) only targeted the communication devices which were located on the roof of the building, and not the operations room of Hamas that is located on one of the floors," the statement said.

Imad Ifranji, director of Al-Quds TV in Gaza, told Mada that Israel fired three missiles at the TV editing and filming department and at the 11th floor of the al-Shawa building.

Ifranji added that "shelling caused injury to all in the office of photographers and assistants and a driver, in addition to significant damage in the section, in addition to damages in the ambulance that rushed to the place for the transfer of injuries, and damage to the TV car."

Saed Radwan, program director at Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV, reported that Israeli warplanes targeted the broadcasting section on the 15th floor of the Shorouq tower, in the al-Rimal area of Gaza City at 6:30 a.m.

Severe damage was caused and most of the equipment and studios were destroyed and "one rocket penetrated the office of Palestine Media Production actually on the 14th floor, causing damage".

The Foreign Press Association in Israel said it was concerned by the attacks.

The coalition of foreign journalists noted that countries with media groups in the targeted buildings are members of the UN Security Council, which has adopted resolution 1738 condemning attacks against journalists in conflict situations.

The statement quoted the resolution, saying "journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be respected and protected as such."

Meanwhile the families and relatives of journalists have also come under attack in the days since Israel launched an assault on Gaza that has killed over 50 people since Wednesday.

On Friday forces targeted the house of European Agency photographer Ali Ibrahim, resulting in moderate injuries to his elderly father, his sister, and her daughter.

On the same day, Mada says, Israeli forces targeted the headquarters of Free Media in the Sheikh Radwan area of the Gaza Strip, almost completely destroying it.

In a case that received widespread coverage Wednesday, a missile killed Omar Mashharawi, the 11-month-old son of BBC Arabic employee Jihad Mashharawi, when his home came under fire.

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