PCHR strongly condemns an Israeli aerial attack on a press office in the center of Gaza City on Tuesday morning. This latest attack comes in the context of a series of systematic attacks launched by Israeli occupying forces against journalists and media institutions in an attempt to silence the press and prevent it from reporting on violations of human rights perpetrated by these forces against Palestinian civilians and their properties in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs)
According to PCHR’s preliminary investigations, at 00:02 on Tuesday, 29 June 2004, Israeli helicopter gunships launched 4 missiles at al-Jeel press office owned and managed by journalist Mustafa al-Sawaf on the third floor of al-Shawa and Husari building at al-Wihda Street in the center of Gaza City. Three missiles directly struck the office, severely damaging its contents. The fourth missile struck offices of Gaza Electricity Generation Company on the fourth floor and severely damaged them. The affected building includes offices of a number of international and local media offices, including offices of the BBC, and offices of lawyers and companies.
One of the missiles that struck al-Jeel press office penetrated into lawyer Darwish al-Wehaidi’s office on the second floor and severely damaged it. Lawyer ‘Omar al-Bursh’s office on the third floor was also damaged. In addition, offices of a number of media institutions, including the German ARD on the fifth floor, which is managed by Zakaria al-Talmas, and Ramatan Company for Media Production on the ninth floor, were damaged. A number of civilian cars near the building, including that of ‘Azmi al-Qishawi, correspondent of Channel 2 of the French Television, were also damaged.
Mr. al-Sawaf told PCHR that no one was in the office when it was attacked. According to Palestinian medical sources, 2 Palestinian civilians were lightly injured. Al-Jeel office provides media services for a number of media institutions, including the web site of Islam Online.
This attack is the third of its kind against media institutions in Gaza in less than 2 months. On 2 May 2004, Israeli helicopter gunships attacked offices of al-Aqsa broadcasting station in the center of Gaza and destroyed them. On 16 May 2004, Israeli helicopter gunships attacked offices of al-Resala Weekly in al-Nasser neighborhood in Gaza City. The offices were destroyed and 2 Palestinian civilians were injured.
Israeli occupying forces have continued to attack journalists and media institutions in spite of the special protection afforded to them by international humanitarian law. PCHR reiterates its calls for the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention in the OPTs and take concrete steps to provide protection for Palestinian civilian population.