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Israel maintained its ban on foreign reporters entering the Gaza Strip on Sunday even after its military offensive against Hamas escalated with a ground operation, but is working to let a small pool of journalists into the Hamas-ruled territory in the wake of a recent High Court intervention on the issue, Israeli officials said Sunday.
The two-month-old ban, which was eased somewhat last month only to be reimposed following an upswing of Palestinian rocket attacks ahead of the current nine-day-old military offensive, has barred journalists from covering Israel's assault on Hamas from inside Gaza itself, and forced them to rely on Palestinian stringers and reporters.
The blanket ban was originally imposed due to the deteriorating security condition in Gaza.
The army's coordinator of activities in the territories, Maj. Peter Lerner, said Sunday that there had been a plan to open the border crossing on Sunday and let a small group of reporters through, but that in the end the crossing was not opened due to the security situation on the ground.
He noted that in keeping with the guidelines set by the High Court, the journalists would only be allowed through when the crossing was opened.
Lerner said he could not say when the journalists would be allowed in.
"It looks like there will be no immediate change in the situation," said Glenys Sugarman, executive secretary of the Foreign Press Association. "It's a question of working out the logistics."
The government has long banned Israeli journalists from entering Gaza because of fears for their safety, but foreign reporters have been permitted to go in, even during times of fierce fighting.
Last week, Israel agreed to let a pool of eight foreign journalists into Gaza when the border crossing was opened for humanitarian needs in the wake of a petition filed by the Foreign Press Association with the High Court of Justice.
Banned from Gaza, the foreign press has been reporting on the assault on Hamas from the Gaza-Israel border, and using Palestinian reports and video from inside the territory.
In the past, Israeli officials have voiced displeasure over the international media's coverage of events in Gaza, saying it inflates Palestinian suffering while not always making clear that Israeli military actions were in response to Palestinian attacks. Officials have said they prefer Palestinians to do the reporting from Gaza.
Shas leader Eli Yishai said on Friday that Israel should not let the foreign press into the Gaza Strip to cover the offensive, since they would only work in the service of a terror organization.
"The foreign press must not be allowed to open a PR office for terrorism and terrorists," Yishai said in a statement, adding that the recent petition to the High Court on the issue had been filed "in the name of phony principles to promote a terror organization."