Media watchdog calls for the release of three journalists kidnapped in Gaza City

French Iranian-born photographer, Alfred Yaghobzadeh (L), and French journalist Caroline Laurent smile after they were released by gunmen in Gaza March 15, 2006. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)

Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about the kidnapping of two French journalists, Caroline Laurent of “Elle” and Alfred Yaghobzadeh of “Sipa”, and South Korean journalist Yong Tae-young of KBS on 14 March in Gaza City, hours after an Israeli army raid on a prison in the West Bank city of Jericho.

“We call on the kidnappers to free their hostages, who were just doing their job as journalists and can in no way be held responsible for Israeli army operations in the West Bank, and we call on the Palestinian authorities to do everything possible to locate them and ensure they are returned safe and sound to their families,” the organisation said.

“We already urged the Palestinian authorities on several occasions to take steps to reinforce the protection of local and foreign journalists working in the Gaza Strip, but clearly nothing was done and we now hold them partially responsible for the appalling security situation still prevailing there,” Reporters Without Borders added.

Four journalists were kidnapped last year in the Gaza Strip. All were freed by their kidnappers.

In the 14 March kidnapping, the three journalists were taken from a central Gaza City hotel frequented by foreigners, just hours after Israeli troops stormed Jericho prison to capture Ahmad Saadat of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was being held for the 2001 murder of the Israeli tourism minister.

Responsibility for the abduction of the journalists was later claimed by a PFLP-linked armed group that said it belonged to the “Jericho brigades.” A spokesman for the group said: “We want the Israeli forces to withdraw from Jericho and we ask the French government to intervene to protect Ahmad Saadat and the other prisoners.”

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas later appealed for calm and urged Palestinians not to attack foreigners and European interests in the Palestinian territories.

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