UK seeks probe into Israeli shooting of cameraman

LONDON, May 3 (Reuters) - Britain on Saturday demanded a thorough inquiry into the Israeli military’s shooting to death of a British television cameraman in a Palestinian refugee camp.

“We are in touch with the Israeli authorities and we are pushing for a full and transparent investigation,” a Foreign Office spokesman said of freelance journalist James Miller.

British Foreign Office Minister Mike O’Brien telephoned Israel’s ambassador to London on Saturday to underline Britain’s concern over the incident, the Foreign Office said.

Israeli forces demolishing a home suspected of concealing an arms-smuggling tunnel in the Gaza Strip shot Miller on Friday in the flashpoint Rafah refugee camp where he was making a documentary on the impact of violence on Palestinian children, witnesses said.

He died after being taken by Israeli forces for treatment.

Britain’s Channel Four, which has broadcast his work in the past, also called for an inquiry. “It goes without saying that the circumstances need to be carefully examined,” a spokeswoman said.

It was the latest embarrassing foreign casualty for Israel.

One foreign journalist has been killed and dozens of local and international journalists have been hurt while reporting on the Palestinian uprising for independence in Gaza and the West Bank, which erupted in September 2000.

At least 2,035 Palestinians and 737 Israelis have died in the revolt.

Peace activists have also been caught in the firing line in Gaza in recent weeks. Briton Tom Hurndall was critically wounded after being shot while helping children cross a street under fire, and American Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a bulldozer while protesting the demolition of a house.


Channel Four’s acting head of news, Dorothy Byrne, said the death of the highly-respected Miller was a devastating blow to Britain’s journalistic community.

“We are horrified to hear the tragic news that James has been killed. It’s an unbearable loss for his family and the journalistic community is diminished by his death,” she said.

“He was one of the outstanding camera operators of his generation. He was brave but he was also extremely experienced and he would never take unnecessary risks,” she added.

At the time of his death on Friday, Miller, who won acclaim for a documentary about life under Taliban rule in Afghanistan called Beneath the Veil, was working on a documentary for American network HBO, colleagues said.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which on Saturday marked International Press Freedom Day, said it was appalled by Miller’s death and joined calls on the Israeli government for an investigation.

“We demand of the Israeli authorities that an inquiry be opened and that its conclusions be made public,” the group’s secretary general Robert Menard said in a statement.

“It is vital that those responsible for the journalist’s death do not go unpunished if it is confirmed that they made a mistake,” he added.

Abdel-Rahman Abdullah, a freelance Palestinian journalist who saw the night-time incident, told Reuters the troops opened fire unprovoked despite clear press markings on the TV crew.

The Israeli army denied troops targeted Miller, saying their operation was to uncover tunnels used by militants to smuggle in weapons from nearby Egypt for a 31-month-old armed uprising. The army said it was responding to hostile fire.

(Additional reporting by Paris bureau)