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Press freedom groups react to Israel attacks on Gaza media

Nov. 18, 2012 6:10 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 19, 2012 7:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists joined their Palestinian colleagues in expressing alarm about Israel's attacks on media in the Gaza Strip.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the attacks and called for an immediate end to such attacks.

“These attacks constitute obstruction of freedom of information,” secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We remind the Israeli authorities that, under humanitarian law, the news media enjoy the same protection as civilians and cannot be regarded as military targets.

“Even if the targeted media support Hamas, this does not in any way legitimize the attacks. We call for a transparent investigation into the circumstances of these air strikes. Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. Those responsible must be identified.”

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

There was no military infrastructure of any kind inside the building housing Ma'an's office.

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 were part of "Hamas' operational communications."

In a separate statement the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was alarmed by Israel's targeting of two media facilities in Gaza.

"Journalists are civilians and are protected under international law in military conflict," said CPJ deputy director, Robert Mahoney. "Israel knows this and should cease targeting facilities housing media organizations and journalists immediately."

Earlier the Palestinian press freedom group Mada said it "strongly condemns the renewed Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and the direct targeting of a number of journalists and media institutions."

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.
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