RSF has asked Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to open an inquiry into the wounding of two journalists from the British news agency Reuters on 6 March 2003 in the Gaza Strip.
“The Israeli army must conduct a serious and speedy inquiry to shed full light on the conditions in which two journalists were wounded while covering events in the occupied territories,” said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. “The Israeli army will have to publish its conclusions as well as the eventual disciplinary measures taken, if it is proven that there was wrongdoing,” Ménard added.
Photographer Ahmed Jadallah and camera operator Shams Odeh, both of whom have worked for Reuters for several years, were wounded on 6 March, at around 7:00 a.m. (local time), while filming in the Jabalya Palestinian refugee camp. Jadallah was seriously wounded by shrapnel in both legs. With blood pouring from his wounds, he was dragged from the scene by bystanders and taken to Al-Shifa Hospital, where he was expected to undergo an operation on 6 March. Reuters said it would seek to get its journalist transferred to an Israeli hospital. Odeh suffered a fractured foot. He is also being treated at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.
According to witnesses and Palestinian medical sources, the journalists were injured when a tank shell hit a group of people who were hosing down a fire, killing eight. According to an Israeli officer, a bomb first exploded inside a building. A tank then fired a shell against a Palestinian militant armed with a rocket launcher.
The Israeli incursion into the Jabalya refugee camp left 11 people dead. It came in response to a Palestinian attack in the city of Haifa, in northern Israel, on 5 March, which left 15 people dead and about 30 wounded, in addition to the perpetrator.
RSF recalls that during 2002, eight journalists, including two French nationals and one American, were injured by gunfire while filming events in Palestinian towns occupied by the Israeli army. In most cases, these journalists were clearly identifiable and did not represent a danger to soldiers. They were injured by warning shots that occasionally led to serious wounds. The organisation deplores and condemns the fact that none of these incidents have given rise to inquiries or disciplinary measures by the Israeli army.
In January, Agence France-Presse photographer Saïf Dahla was wounded in the leg by two bullets from a machine gun during an incursion into the city of Jenin, in the West Bank. Dahla was wearing a helmet and a bulletproof jacket, which made him clearly identifiable as a journalist. An Israeli army spokesperson, Sharon Feingold, categorically denied that the soldiers had deliberately opened fire on the journalist and said that an inquiry had been opened. However, the conclusions of the inquiry are still unknown and nothing proves it was ever launched.
For further information, contact Séverine Cazes-Tschann at RSF, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: www.rsf.org