PCHR strongly condemns yesterday’s Israeli aerial attack on the offices of a Palestinian broadcasting station, which are located in an apartment building in the center of Gaza City. Regular attacks on the media, including offices personnel and equipment indicate attempts to limit the freedom of the press in order to prevent media coverage of Israeli military activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 18:50 on Sunday, 2 May 2004, Israeli helicopter gun-ships launched 3 missiles at offices of the local al-Aqsa broadcasting station, believed to be close to Hamas, which are located on the top floor of an apartment building in the center of Gaza City. Two of the missiles directly hit the offices of the station, whereas the third missile destroyed a part of the roof of the building. This attack caused severe damage to the station’s offices, but no casualties were reported among its staff. 5 members of the staff left the building immediately after the first missile hit it. The windows of a number of flats in the building were destroyed. A number of Palestinian civilians were reported to be suffering from shock, but no other injuries were reported. The targeted building consisted of a number of residential properties and the offices of companies and institutions.
This attack came in the context of a series of attacks launched by Israeli occupying forces against journalists and media institutions in the OPTs. According to PCHR’s documentation, since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000, Israeli occupying forces have killed 8 journalists, both Palestinians and internationals, and injured 16 others. PCHR has also documented other kinds of attacks, including the destruction of media centers, the arrest and detention of journalists and denial of access for journalists to areas where clashes were ongoing.
Journalists are afforded specific protection under international humanitarian law and the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under international human rights treaties to which Israel is a state party.
Today, 3 May, marks World Press Freedom Day. On this occasion PCHR reiterates its call for respect for press freedoms, including freedom of expression. PCHR further calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention by Israel, including to ensure protection of Palestinian civilians.