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Israel Revokes Three Press Cards over Israeli ‘hit Squad’ Reports

Three foreign journalists lost their press credentials Tuesday for violating censorship regulations.

Andrew Whitley of the Financial Times, Steve Weizman of Reuters news agency and Paul Taylor, the Reuter bureau chief in Israel, were summoned to the Government Press Office and ordered to hand in their press cards.

Their press privileges were suspended for failure to submit to the military censors stories alleging that Israel sent hit squads into the administered territories to murder leaders of the Palestinian uprising.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin categorically denied the reports. The story was totally groundless, he told reporters Tuesday.

The three journalists were told they had committed a “very grave violation” of the journalistic code of conduct.

The decision to penalize them followed daylong deliberations between officials of the Defense and Foreign ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Demands by the Defense Ministry for tougher measures were rejected because the three newsmen have had good records until now. They were warned, however, that a repetition of the violation would bring harsher action against them.

Taylor was assured that his suspension would not affect the operations of the Reuters bureau here.

His office will continue to function and will not be denied government cooperation, including announcements and access to spokespersons.

Reuters, a worldwide news agency and wire service, is British. The Financial Times is published in London.

Two American correspondents lost their press credentials earlier this year.

Martin Fletcher of NBC News and Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post were punished for filing stories on the alleged Israeli involvement in the assassination in a Tunis suburb of Abu Jihad, second in command of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The stories were not submitted to the military censor. Fletcher and Frankel eventually had their press privileges restored.

Rabin told reporters there are security units of variours kinds operating in the administered terriories, but he said none of them is authorized to break the law. They have standing orders when and under what circumstances they can open fire, he said.

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