PCHR’S INVESTIGATION AND EYEWITNESSES’ STATEMENTS DENY ISRAELI CLAIMS: NO EXCHANGE OF FIRE TOOK PLACE WHEN ISRAELI SOLDIERS SHOT DEAD A BRITISH JOURNALIST
Date: 3 May 2003
Investigations conducted by PCHR and eyewitnesses’ testimonies prove that Israeli soldiers willfully shot dead James Miller, a British cameraman, contrary to the claims of the Israeli military southern command that Israeli soldiers returned fire coming from Palestinian sources at the time Miller was shot. According to PCHR’s investigation, Israeli soldiers did not offer Miller immediate medical aid. Miller succumbed to his injury later.
PCHR strongly condemns this crime, which was the second of its kind against journalists in two weeks, and calls for an international investigation.
According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 19:30 on Friday, 2 May 2003, a number of British journalists, accompanied by Palestinian assistants, went to the area of Salah al-Din Gate at the border with Egypt in Rafah. The group included 3 British journalists: James Miller, 34, the owner of Frost Bite for media production; Sierra Shah, 38, a journalist; and Daniel Edge, 25, a staff assistant, and two Palestinians: Mowaffaq al-Khatib, 25, the guide of the staff; and ‘Abdul Rahman ‘Abdullah, 25, a translator.
In his testimony to PCHR, the translator, ‘Abdul Rahman ‘Abdullah, said that he and other members of the group entered the house of Fawzi al-Sha’er and started filming agricultural land leveling and house demolition by Israeli military bulldozers, approximately 150m away. About half an hour later, Tamer Ziara, a cameraman for the Associated Press, joined the group. ‘Abdullah added:
“At approximately 23:30, we decided to leave the house and the area, but we realized that we were blocked inside the house and Israeli tanks were very close. We decided to get out of the house and introduce ourselves to Israeli soldiers, tell them about our work and let them know that we would like to leave the area, to avoid being fired at by Israeli soldiers if we did not tell them.
Three of us got out; I was carrying a white flag, James was holding a lamb directed at the flag and Sierra was raising her hands. We were all wearing helmets and bullet proof suits, on which “TV” was written. We walked about 20m towards the tanks. We called on Israeli soldiers, saying that we were British journalists who wanted to leave the area, but they did not reply.
Suddenly, they fired at us, wounding James. James cried and we shouted at the Israeli soldiers to stop shooting and told them that one of us was wounded. We asked them for help as James was bleeding profusely. I went back to the house and told the others that James was wounded and asked them to call an ambulance. Then, I ran towards the tanks to ask Israeli soldiers for help, but they did not reply. I returned to James and tried with Daniel and Sierra to evacuate him from the area. We carried him and when we began to walk, Israeli soldiers on one of the tanks called on us to stop, but we continued to walk. Two armored personnel carriers moved towards us. When they were 10m away from us, Israeli soldiers ordered us to put James on the front of the carrier. I told them that he was in bad condition and should be put inside the vehicles, but they insisted to put him on the front of the carrier. We tried more than once, but we failed to put him on the front of the carrier as it was high. James fell more than once, but Israeli soldiers did not help us. After several failed attempts, Israeli soldiers got out of the carrier and put him on its front. Then, Sierra left the area with the carrier.”
Later, Israeli sources reported that James Miller was transferred to an Israeli military location in Rafah, where he succumbed to his wounds before evacuating him to hospital.
According to eyewitnesses, no exchange of fire took place in the area between Israeli occupying forces and Palestinian gunmen. The translator also asserted that the group decided to leave the house when the area was quiet. The same was said by Tamer Ziara, who joined the group later, asserting that only Israeli occupying forces fired at the area.
James Miller and his colleagues had been in the Gaza Strip for several weeks filming a documentary on the lives of Palestinian children along the border with Egypt in Rafah, for the US Home Book Office (HBO) cable channel.
PCHR strongly condemns this new Israeli attack on journalists, which was the second of its kind in two weeks, following the killing of Nazeeh Darwaza, a cameraman for Palestinian Television, in Nablus on 19 April 2003. Thus, the number of journalists killed by Israeli occupying forces since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000 has increased to 7: 5 Palestinians and two foreigners, while the number of wounded journalists is 94.
PCHR reiterates its call upon the international community and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 to fulfill their obligations under the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and effectively intervene to stop violations of the Conventions perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces. As investigations conducted by the Israeli army and the state of Israel lack credibility, PCHR calls for the formation of an international inquiry mission to investigate this crime and hundreds of similar crimes, which prove the excessive use of force by Israeli occupying forces against protected civilians.