Palestinian journalists under Israeli fire

The death of Hamed Shehab on Wednesday in an Israeli air strike has triggered fear and anger among journalists in Gaza.

An Israeli air strike killed Shehab and injured another eight Palestinians on a busy street in Gaza City [Reuters]

Gaza City – With tearful eyes, the Al-Aqsa TV anchorman announced the death of Palestinian journalist Hamed Shehab on Wednesday evening, hit by an Israeli air strike while driving home on Omar al-Mukhtar street.

Shehab, 27, was working for local press company Media 24. He was driving a car that had the letters “TV” affixed to it in large, red stickers when it was struck by an Israeli missile. The bombing, carried out on one of Gaza City’s busiest streets, has triggered fear and rage among journalists in Gaza.

“Such [an] attack is meant to intimidate us. Israel has no bank of targets anymore, except civilians and journalists,” Abed Afifi, a cameraman for the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV channel, told Al Jazeera.

Afifi said Shehab was an independent media professional, and was not affiliated to any political party.

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Shehab’s body arrived at Gaza’s Shifa hospital in pieces, burned and unidentifiable. His silver-coloured Skoda car was riddled with shrapnel and covered in blood. Another eight Palestinians were injured in the same attack.

The Palestinian death toll sat at nearly 100 Palestinians as of Friday morning, while hundreds of others have been injured over the past four days of Israeli air strikes. The UN estimated on Thursday that at least 342 housing units had been destroyed, and at least 2,000 Palestinians displaced, in the bombardment.

This crime is meant to break the will of Palestinian media professionals who are working day and night … to show the brutality of the occupation.

by - Ihab al-Ghussein, Gaza ministry of interior

Ihab al-Ghussein, from Gaza’s interior ministry, commented on Shehab’s death from Shifa hospital: “This crime is meant to break the will of Palestinian media professionals who are working day and night … to show the brutality of the occupation”.

Ghussein held the international community responsible. “No doubt this is a crime, but journalists will not stop their mission,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government said it had no initial information about the incident, while an Israeli army spokeswoman told Reuters news agency that the military was checking for more details.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned Shehab’s killing as a war against press freedom. “This is a deliberate and planned crime to discourage Palestinian journalists from showing occupation crimes and horrors of collective punishment against the Gaza Strip,” a statement from the group read.

The Syndicate said it would appeal to all international media groups to withhold membership to the Israeli Journalists Syndicate in response to Shehab’s killing. 

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This isn’t the first time Israel has allegedly targeted journalists in Gaza. In November 2012, the Israeli army carried out four separate strikes on Gaza-based media, killing two cameramen, injuring at least 10 other media workers, and damaging four media offices.

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev justified the bombings at the time, saying that the people targeted were not “legitimate journalists”.

But Human Rights Watch said that the Israel air strikes had violated the laws of war. “Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

Most recently, on July 8, Reporters Without Borders accused Israel of preventing journalists from reporting on the upsurge of violence and arrests in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and inside Israel.

Mousa Rimawi, head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), said that Israel has frequently targeted Palestinian and international journalists during major military campaigns.

“The purpose,” Rimawi told Al Jazeera, “is to silence media and to prevent the journalists from covering the crimes that are committed by Israel against [the] Palestinian people.”

“Without pressure from international civil society, Israel will continue to target journalists because they are behaving like a state above international law,” Rimawi added. “There is no pressure and nothing that can stop them [from continuing] this policy.”

But for journalists like Afifi, he said his job is something he is not willing to compromise, despite only getting a few hours of sleep over the past four days outside the morgue at Shifa hospital.

“All these attacks on civilians should not stop us from working – the world has to see what Israel is doing in Gaza,” he said.

Follow Mohammed Omer on Twitter. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours contributed reporting.

Source: Al Jazeera