The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today reiterated its alarm at mounting press restrictions and attacks on reporters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In a letter sent today to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, CPJ protested the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declaration that the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Qalqiliya are “closed military areas” and therefore off-limits to the press.
The West Bank city of Ramallah was declared off-limits to the press on Friday. While the ban in Ramallah has been sporadically enforced, several journalists have been prevented from entering the city or from moving freely within the city.
In the letter, CPJ also strongly protested ongoing incidents in which IDF forces have opened fire on, or in the direction of, journalists attempting to cover events in the West Bank. “These incidents increasingly appear as attempts by the IDF to intimidate the press from covering the IDF’s widening military campaign in the territories,” the letter said.
In a shocking incident yesterday, NBC correspondent Dana Lewis and his two-person camera crew came under IDF fire in Ramallah at dusk while driving in an armored car that was clearly identified as a press vehicle. After an initial burst of gunfire hit the car, a lone IDF soldier opened fire with a second burst from a range of about 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters).
The journalists then stopped the car, turned on an interior light to make themselves visible, and placed their hands on the windshield. After 15 to 20 seconds, the soldier fired a third burst, hitting the windshield. The NBC crew escaped by driving away in reverse.
In other recent developments: