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Israel targets media facilities in Gaza offensive

(IFEX) - At least six journalists were injured on 18 November 2012 in Israel's air strikes on the Gaza Strip and more deliberately on media facilities in the area, according to reports from IFEX members. Several local and international media were prevented from operating.

Rreporters without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Press Institute (IPI), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) have condemned Israel's attacks on media offices.

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

In the early hours of 18 November, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired on the Al-Shawa Wa Hassri Tower in Gaza City, which houses the offices of Al-Quds TV and several other local and international media, injuring six journalists in the process.

Al-Quds employees Khader al-Zahar, Darwish Bulbul, Hazem Da'our, Mohammed al-Akhras were injured. Al-Zahar remains in critical condition after one of his legs had to be amputated below the knee. Ibrahim Labad, a reporter for the Palestinian news agency SAFA, and Hussein al-Madhoun, a freelance photographer working for the Ma'an news agency, were also injured.

According to RSF, a few hours after the attack on the Al-Shawa Tower, three Al-Aqsa TV employees were seriously injured when two missiles were fired at the Al-Shourouk building, also known as the “journalists' building.” A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said on the @IDFSpokesperson Twitter account that the air strike had targeted a Hamas communication centre.

“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,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. “Attacks on civilian targets are war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.”

The RSF report includes Sky News Arabia, the German TV station ARD, the Arab TV stations MBC and Abu Dhabi TV, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Russia Today and the Ma'an news agency among the local and international media whose offices were damaged by Israeli missiles.

"We demand a full inquiry by the United Nations to investigate the attacks and to take action against the Government of Israel," said Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists. "The international community must respond immediately to this outrage. The rights of journalists in conflict zones have been particularly highlighted by the United Nations and members states cannot stand by when one state acts in a reckless and dangerous manner."

"We remind Israel and Hamas that journalists covering conflict have a right to do their job without being targeted, regardless of the political affiliation of the media houses they work for," IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said. "Journalists are never a legitimate target, either for violent attack or restrictions on freedom of movement."

MADA is continuing to monitor attacks on the press and calls for the protection of journalists and prosecution of the perpetrators.

The issue of journalists' protection is scheduled to be debated at a UN Inter-agency meeting in Vienna on 22-23 November.

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