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3 journalists killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza

Nov. 20, 2012 6:41 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 13, 2012 11:53 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Three Palestinian journalists were killed in Israeli airstrikes on central and northern Gaza Tuesday evening, after media buildings were hit by Israeli warplanes two days in a row.

Mahmoud al-Koumi and Husam Salameh, both cameramen for al-Aqsa TV, were killed in an airstrike on a car near al-Wihda towers in the Gaza City.

Both men were 30-years-old and the father of four children.

Palestinian press freedom group Mada said the journalists were traveling in an Al-Aqsa TV car marked with a press sign.Two others were injured in the strike, medics said.

Another airstrike killed Muhammad Abu Aisha, the director of Al-Quds Educational Radio, in his car in Deir al-Balah.

Their deaths have sparked outrage among Gaza's press corps. Mada condemned the strike as a "heinous crime ... (and) a flagrant breach of the international conventions that protect journalists."

Following the strikes, Hamas accused Israel of trying to suppress coverage of Israeli attacks in the coastal enclave.

"The Israeli aggressors want to cut the picture and silence the voice of the brave people of Gaza. Journalism in Gaza plays a major, effective role in exposing the enemy's crimes to the world," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told a news conference.

The bombings came as a Hamas official said an agreement to cease hostilities would come into effect at midnight.

Twenty-three Palestinians, including two children, were killed on Tuesday, the seventh day of Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Since Israel's assassination of a Hamas commander on Wednesday, 141 Palestinians have been killed, and over 900 injured.

An Israeli soldier and civilian were reported killed by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, bringing the Israeli death toll to five.

Media attacks

Israel drew widespread local and international condemnation for its bombing media complexes in Gaza City.

On Sunday morning, Israel bombed two media buildings -- including one which houses Ma'an's Gaza office -- injuring six journalists.

On Monday, Israeli warplanes again fired missiles at one of the same media offices in Gaza City, injuring two journalists – Al Arabiya cameraman Ahmed al-Ridi and Ahmed al-Achkar of Houna Al-Quds TV.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the latest target was Ramez Harb, head of media for the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, who was killed in the airstrike.

Regev maintained that the army could not treat Al-Aqsa TV employees as “legitimate journalists” like BBC or Al Jazeera employees.

International media watchdogs have criticised Israel and dismissed such justifications.

"Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions," Reporters Without Borders secretary Christophe Deloire said. "Those responsible must be identified."

"Israel should respect its obligations under international law and immediately halt its attacks against news media offices," Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement on Monday.

"Authorities know these buildings are home to numerous news organizations whose employees are civilians protected by international law," he said
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