Pool of 8 foreign journalists allowed into Gaza

Foreign Press Association head calls move a "step in the right direction," but wants "full access."

foreign press 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
foreign press 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel on Sunday allowed a pool of eight foreign journalists into the Hamas-controlled territory for the first time since the bruising military operation against the Islamic regime began three weeks ago. The High Court of Justice had urged the State nearly three weeks ago to let foreign journalists into the Gaza Strip, following a petition filed by the Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association (FPA), which represents international journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories. "This is a step in the right direction," said Steven Gutkin, FPA chairman and Jerusalem bureau chief of The Associated Press. He added that the organization would now work to attain full access for the international media in keeping with its original High Court petition. "We want full access, and we'll fight for it," Gutkin said. The group of journalists allowed in on Sunday consisted of six members of the foreign press chosen by an FPA lottery, with the remaining two having been selected by the Government Press Office (GPO). GPO director Danny Seaman, who has opposed the foreign press' entry into Gaza, said Sunday that the State should have waited another 24 hours before allowing its members back into Gaza. He noted that because of the high tensions in the densely packed coastal strip, Israeli soldiers might easily mistake a journalist for a terrorist, or hesitate and be killed by a terrorist due to the presence of journalists. "These journalists are not cautious, and in an unorthodox battlefield it could cost them their lives," he said. The government has long banned Israeli journalists from entering Gaza due to concerns over their safety, but always allowed members of the foreign press in, even during times of fierce fighting. Banned from Gaza during the 22-day Israeli operation, foreign journalists have become increasingly frustrated by having to rely on the wire services, as well as on Palestinian reports and video from inside the Strip. Last week, the IDF began taking small groups of FPA members to outlying positions for briefings with commanders in the field. In the past few days, some foreign journalists, including a BBC reporter, were able to enter Gaza via the Egyptian border. Israeli officials have often voiced displeasure over the international media's coverage of events in Gaza, claiming that it exaggerated Palestinian suffering while not always making clear that Israeli military actions were in response to Palestinian attacks. The Defense Ministry has said that foreign journalists would be allowed back into Gaza when Palestinians stop firing rockets at Israel.