Israeli attacks on Gaza journalists violated rules of war, rights group says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli attacks on media facilities in Gaza, and the killing of two Palestinian cameramen, during last month’s conflict violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said.

In a report issued Thursday, the New York-based human rights organization said Israel violated international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, during Operation Pillar of Defense, under which journalists and media workers are civilians and therefore immune from attack unless they are directly participating in hostilities.

Two Palestinian cameramen working for al-Aksa TV, the media arm of the terrorist group Hamas, were killed by an Israeli pinpoint attack on their car on Nov. 20. The Israeli media said they were Hamas operatives.

In addition, Israel’s Air Force bombed two office tower housing the offices of several international and local news services, including, Sky News, Press TV, Kuwait TV, Rusiya Al-Yaum and ITN. The Israeli military said it was targeting Hamas communications systems on the roof of the building, and charged Hamas with using journalists as human shields.

“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on the organization’s website. “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.”

According to Human Rights Watch, under international law, television and radio stations are considered civilian objects protected from attack unless they are used to make an “effective contribution to military action” and their destruction in the specific circumstances offers “a definite military advantage.”
 

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