Israel’s Targeting of Media Is a War Crime

By Kevin Gosztola

Early Sunday, as widely reported, Israeli warplanes launched air strikes, which hit two complexes with media offices. The strikes wounded ten journalists or media persons. One person, Khader al-Zahhar, a cameraman for Al-Quds TV, had to have his leg amputated and suffered shrapnel wounds.

The first complex attacked around 2 am was the Al-Shawa Wa Hassri Tower. According to Reporters Without Borders, fifteen reporters and photographers wearing vests with “TV Press” on them were on the building’s roof trying to cover Israel’s air strikes on Gaza.

 

Five missiles hit the 11th floor offices used by Al-Quds TV and injured four employees— Darwish Bulbul, Khadar Al-Zahar, Muhammad al-Akhras and Hazem al-Da’our. Hussein Al-Madhoun, a freelance photographer working for the Ma’an News Agency was wounded. The office had been serving as a headquarters for various foreign and Palestinian media organizations, including Ma’an News Agency.

 

Hours later, around 7 am, a building Reporters Without Borders claims was known as the “journalists’ building”—the Al-Shorouq building—was hit. The two missiles that struck the building wounded three Al-Aqsa TV employees and damaged the offices of Sky News Arabia, the German TV station ARD, Arab TV stations MBC and Abu Dhabi TV, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Russia Today and Ma’an News Agency.

“These attacks constitute obstruction of freedom of information,” stated Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire. “We remind the Israeli authorities that, under humanitarian law, the news media enjoy the same protection as civilians and cannot be regarded as military targets.”

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) expressed their “concern” with Israel’s strike on a “media building housing FPA members Sky News, Sky News Arabia, MBC TV, Al-Arabiya, ORF and other European broadcasters.”

Predictably, Israel tried to justify hitting buildings being used by journalists by claiming it was “infrastructure of Hamas’ operational communications” were located inside the civilian building. It targeted the communication devices on the rooftop to “minimize damage.” And, it hit the second building because that building was also “part of Hamas’ operational communications.” They “deliberately located” the devices on the roof of the building, the army claimed.

Deloire did not accept this official statement, “Even though the outlets targeted are linked to Hamas, it does not legitimize the attacks…Attacks against civilian targets constitute war crimes.”

Ofir Gendelman, spokesman of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted that “No Western journalists were hurt” in the attacks on the media buildings, which suggests the lives of non-Western journalists are meaningless to Israel. They can be wounded or killed and that will be fine because it will be easy to suggest they were Hamas sympathizers or were working for the Hamas.

The Israel army warned journalists to stay away from “Hamas.” In a tweet, the Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson stated, “Advice to reporters in Gaza, just like any person in Gaza: For your own safety, stay away from Hamas positions and operatives.” But, how is one to know what does and does not constitute a Hamas position or operative?

As demonstrated in a post I wrote yesterday, Israel operates under a broad concept that a UN fact-finding mission in 2009 rejected. The concept allows Israel to transform just about any civilian or civilian target into a military target by simply alleging or suggesting a link to Hamas.

Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich preposterously claimed Hamas had been using the journalists as “human shields.”

This article originally appeared on the blog the Dissenter.

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