Press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) castigated Israel this week after five Palestinian journalists were wounded while covering clashes in Gaza and the West Bank over a four-day period.
Citing Palestinian organization MADA, the Paris-based NGO reported that Safinaz Al-Luh of Hanthala News and Al-Aqsa TV’s Sami Misran were injured when Israeli soldiers allegedly opened fire on them as they filmed a wounded demonstrator in Gaza on July 19. Misran was said to have lost the use of one eye. Both men were wearing vests labeled “press.”
“Firing at journalists when they are clearly identifiable indicates a deliberate desire to target the press and obstruct their work,” RSF said in a statement. “The Israeli military must stop targeting journalists, who are protected by international law when they are doing their job as reporters.”
Al-Aqsa TV was designated a terrorist organization by the US Treasury in 2010 because of its ties to Hamas. Earlier this year, Israel’s Shin Bet security service accused the station and its Gaza-based journalists of acting as agents of the Hamas terror group’s military wing in an effort to recruit young Palestinians with Israeli ID cards to carry out terror attacks inside Israel. Israel has cracked down on the station and has even bombed its headquarters on more than one occasion, drawing the ire of groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists.
— Bint e Gull (@bint_gull) July 22, 2019
According to RSF, journalists Ayat Arqawi of the APA Agency and Mutasem Sqfelhait of the Quds Network were wounded by gas grenades fired by IDF troops as they covered a protest near Bethlehem on July 20. Two days later, Mohamed Al-Arbid was shot in the leg while covering a Palestinian protest in the Gaza Strip.
10 journalists have been wounded since Palestinians began their regular March of Return protests on the Gaza border last March, the group stated.
The IDF on Wednesday said it does not target journalists.
“In response to your question – the IDF absolutely does not maintain a policy of inflicting harm to journalists, not in the past four days, and not ever,” the army said.
In 2018, journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein were killed covering the protests and attendant clashes. Following their deaths, RSF called for the International Criminal Court to launch a war crimes investigation into “war crimes by the Israel Defense Forces.”
Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman accused Murtaja of being a member of Hamas who was using his photography business as cover to obtain drone footage of IDF positions, but did not offer any proof for his claim.