The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a Brusselsbased organization,
is asking for an international inquiry into what it calls the deliberate
targeting of journalists in Gaza.
The allegation follows IDF airstrikes
on a building housing several media organizations as well as targeted missile
strikes on cars, which led to the deaths of three Palestinian
The strikes took place during Operation Pillar of Defense
earlier this month.
“First of all, we want an independent international
inquiry into what we consider to be a targeting of media in this last conflict,
and then we need proper action to be taken. We have no idea on what level it was
decided to attack those facilities. But it’s the responsibility of Israel to
ensure the safety of journalists. They attacked a media building without even
warning people,” said Ernest Sagaga, head of the human rights and communications
department at the IFJ, which says its represents more than 600,000 members in
The organization said it requested that the United Nations
carry out an investigation following Operation Pillar of Defense, during a UN
meeting on media safety issues last Friday in Vienna.
During the meeting,
which focused on a new UN “plan of action” for improving the security of
journalists, UN officials condemned Israel’s attack on media facilities in Gaza.
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue said that
governments should have the “political will to investigate attacks on
journalists and put an end to impunity.”
Sagaga said that in addition to
their request to the UN, the IFJ would like to carry out its own research into
“It is the responsibility of the UN to conduct such an
But naturally, if it is at all possible, we would also
like to organize a visit to Gaza to find out for ourselves what happened,”
He noted that the group sent a delegation to Gaza in 2009,
after Operation Cast Lead, and found that both sides had targeted
“In 2009 we produced a report, and we were able to
corroborate very clearly that the media was targeted, both by Israel and by
Hamas. We learned on the ground that Hamas was intimidating journalists who were
operating there,” Sagaga said.
Sagaga noted that in the case of the
targeting of a building housing several local and international media
organizations – an November 18 IDF airstrike injured several Palestinian
journalists and caused one, cameraman Khader al-Zahhar, to lose a leg – there
was no attempt by the army to warn innocent journalists working in the
“We think it’s really important to find out what
Journalistic facilities are not military targets,” he
“Israel will have to figure out at what level it was decided to hit
that building and who took the decision. It’s up to the government of Israel to
decide who’s to blame,” said Sagaga Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French news
agency, was also housed in the building hit on November 18. The organization
filed a formal complaint with the Israeli ambassador to France, “vigorously
protesting at the airstrike against the Gaza City building in which the agency
has its offices,” AFP’s Jerusalem bureau chief Philippe Agret said.
actual letter went a step further, suggesting that the IDF had targeted the
building knowing full well that it was full of local and international
“The Israeli authorities were well aware of the location of
our bureau and they therefore deliberately put the lives our journalists in
danger,” head of information at AFP in France Philippe Massonnet said in a
letter to Yossi Gal, the Israeli Ambassador to France.
The building, the
Al-Shoroq Tower – also known as the “Journalists’ Tower” — is 15- story building
in Gaza City which houses both local and international media agencies, including
Al Arabiya, Al-Quds TV, Sky News, France 24 and Russia TV.
One of the
local agencies it houses is Ma’an News, headquartered in Bethlehem. The Gaza
bureau manager said that he was at work when he heard an enormous
“Suddenly I heard the boom. I looked out the window because I
didn’t realize that it had hit our own tower,” said Iyad Eid of Ma’an, who had
been sleeping at the office because it was too dangerous to travel to his home
in Tel el-Hawa in the southern Gaza Strip.
“I grabbed my clothes and
tried to escape to the street, but then someone told us that some people in the
building were killed or injured, so I turned around and decided to go upstairs
to help my colleagues.”
His office is on the fifth floor, but it was the
11th floor that took the direct hit, he explained.
“Downstairs I saw that
my colleague from Al-Quds television was injured and there was blood all over
the stairs, and many of the team from Al- Quds TV were in shock,” he
The sense among journalists in the building, he said, is that they
were targeted because of the work that they do.
The day following those
airstrikes, IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich told reporters, in a statement
recorded by the BBC, that the army knew there were journalists in the tower,
suggesting that the strike was targeting Al-Quds television because, as a
Wikipedia entry puts it, “it is considered by many to be the mouthpiece of
“We obviously knew there were journalists in the building, so we
did not attack any other floors in the building,” Leibovich said, “but my advice
to journalists visiting Gaza is to stay away from any Hamas position, or Hamas
site or Hamas post for their own safety.”
Two days after the attack on
the building, on November 20, two Palestinian cameramen from Al-Aqsa TV were
killed when an Israeli missile hit their car, which was marked with the letters
The two journalists, Hussam Mohammed Salama, 30, and Mahmoud Ali
al-Koumi, 29, were on their way to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital to interview injured
people, the station said.
Later, a third journalist, Mohamed Abu Aisha,
director of Al-Quds Educational Radio, was killed when a missile hit his
It was not the first time that the IDF has target journalistic
offices affiliated with Hamas.
During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF fired
missiles into the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala weekly newspaper. It
also bombed al-Rantisi printers, the printing press that publishes
Asked for a response, an IDF spokesperson said, “The IDF works
within the scope of international law and aims its attacks at legitimate targets
while doing its utmost to minimize harm to uninvolved people.
specific complaint received will be examined according to its substance.”