Israeli attacks on media violated laws of war: HRW

Published — Friday 21 December 2012

Last update 21 December 2012 2:54 am

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JERUSALEM: Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in the Gaza Strip during an eight-day flare up last month “violated the laws of war,” Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
“Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations,” said HRW.
“The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target but provided no specific information to support its claims.”
Israel and Gaza militants fought an eight-day battle from Nov. 14 which killed about 170 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and six Israelis, four civilians and two soldiers.
Hundreds of air strikes were carried out by Israel, including several targeting buildings housing media outlets, and bombed a car carrying two cameramen for a Hamas-affiliated television station, killing both.
The Jewish state said it launched “surgical strikes” that only targeted facilities used by militant groups or their members.
But HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson accused Israel of having “dangerously and unlawfully blurred the distinction between civilians who call for or support military attacks and those who directly participate in attacks”.
The rights group said it had found no evidence the media sites and individuals targeted were “valid military objectives,” adding Israel had failed to provide any proof.
“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Whitson.
“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.”
International law protects media workers as civilians immune from attack unless they take up arms.
Separately, Jewish settlers said yesterday that Israel has approved plans to build 523 homes in the West Bank.
“After years, the government of Israel has decided to build a city in Gush Etzion,” David Perel, head of the Gush Etzion regional council, told AFP.
Perel said the council had presented plans for a city of at least 6,000 homes in the year 2000, but had not received any approval until now.

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