June 10, 2007.
Journalists on Sunday condemned Palestinian militants for using a television
truck to disguise their assault on an Israeli military position, saying the new
tactic would make their jobs significantly more dangerous.
In Saturday’s attack, four gunmen drove a white jeep with press markings in
English and Arabic to a fence on the Gaza-Israel border, then broke through on
foot and attacked a guard tower in a failed attempt to capture a soldier. Israeli
troops killed one gunman, while the others escaped.
The attackers, from Islamic Jihad and an offshoot of Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, abandoned the jeep. Associated Press
photos show a white armored vehicle of a type used by reporters, its
windshield pocked by bullet holes, bearing red markings reading “TV” and
Reporters covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often mark their cars to avoid
being targeted. The incident Saturday marked the first time combatants have
disguised themselves as reporters in an attack in the last seven years of
The attack was certain to increase the risks for Gaza journalists, who already
face intimidation from Palestinian militant groups involved in a violent internal
Journalists have historically operated unhindered in Gaza. But in the past two
years, a string of foreign reporters have been kidnapped by militants and
released in the chaotic territory. A British TV correspondent, Alan Johnston,
remains in captivity three months after he was seized.
In his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
accused militants of trying to “trick the army” and “take advantage of the
special sensitivity that exists in a democracy like ours for the right of the media
to operate freely in sensitive security areas”.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmad denied the group had put the press
markings on the jeep and accused the Israeli military of doing so after the
incident. “Islamic Jihad appreciates the work of the international and the
Palestinian media,” he said. But AP photos clearly show the markings on
the jeep when the attack was under way.
In Gaza, the Palestinian Journalists’ Association released a statement Sunday
condemning the militants’ new tactic, which it said “puts the life of journalists
in danger … limits their ability to undertake their professional and national
duties, and harms their journalistic work, which is protected by international
In Tel Aviv, the Foreign Press Association, which represents international news
organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the gunmen’s “abuse
of this recognized protection for the working journalist is a grave development
and we condemn those that carried it out”. Army spokeswoman Maj. Avital
Leibovitch said the militants’ “cynical exploitation of the protection given to
journalists endangers the lives of soldiers and civilians”.
Only vehicles registered with the Israeli government are given
protection, she said, but the jeep used by the gunmen closely resembled several
Palestinian security officials said militants have used cars with press markings
to transport weapons in Gaza twice in the past year.