ournalists see pattern in attacks on Gaza reporters
Date: 10 / 01 / 2009 Time: 19:36
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Bethlehem – Ma’an – Journalists working in the Gaza Strip are seeing a pattern of attacks on media professionals they think may be a deliberate attempt by Israel to muzzle independent reports of the onslaught in Gaza.

In addition to an Israeli ban on international journalists entering Gaza in effect since November, there has been a rash of attacks on media in Gaza in the last 24 hours.

Late on Friday afternoon, an Israeli drone fired a missile at the roof of the Jawwhara media tower, where journalists were broadcasting live. Two people were injured in the attack. Witnesses in and near the building said the missile crashed through the roof of the building, into a stairwell, missing the camera crews by a few meters.

Journalist Ala Mortaji died Friday evening from wounds he sustained earlier in the day when Israeli tank shells hit his home in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Mortaji was a reporter for a local radio station, Alwan.

The home of another reporter, Samir Khalifah in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, was badly damaged. The family said they narrowly escaped death, having moved to the lower floor of the home only a few hours before the Israeli attack and were thus able to flee the fire that broke out in the home when it was hit by Israeli bombs. Khalifa is employed by Sudan TV.

One Gazan journalist, Akrma As-Satari, an employee of the Iranian Al-Alam TV, one of the outfits in the Jawwhara building, sees a pattern in these attacks, connecting them with attacks on journalists in the field.

“The Israelis know for sure that there are media teams, and that there are rescue workers, who go to where there are injured people. They target an area once, then wait, then target it once more,” when journalists and ambulance crews arrive, he told Ma’an.

“I think they might be trying to eliminate eyewitnesses,” he said.

The bombing of the Jawwhara building raises further questions, since the roof of the building is clearly labeled “Press” and “TV.”

An Israeli military spokesperson claimed that an “initial investigation” showed that no Israeli forces were shooting in the area at that time.

Reminded of the fact that the Israeli military is the only organization that uses unmanned drones in Gaza, the spokesperson said, “These investigations take time.”

Natalie Abu Shakra, a human rights advocate and journalist who witnessed the aftermath of the airstrike pointed to the fact that two Iranian networks are housed in the building, Al-Alam and Press TV, who are highly critical of Israel in their coverage.

“They’re very explicit” in their reporting, Abu Shakra said, “The message to them is ‘shut your mouth.”