So now it’s OK to shell journalists in Palestine

Four months ago, on April 16, the Israeli military carried out two separate attacks against groups of civilians in Juhor al-dik, a village in the middle area of the Gaza Strip. In the first attack, Israeli troops fired two missiles from a helicopter into a crowd of adults and children who had gathered together during an Israeli incursion into Juhor al-dik. The first missile killed two children, and when the crowd ran screaming, the soldiers fired a second missile that landed inside in the garden of Mahmoud Ahmed Mohammed. He was killed instantly, as was his brother, and four other children.

Fadel Shanaa, a Palestinian working as a cameraman for Reuters, arrived in Juhor al-dik half an hour later, to film the aftermath of the killings. He and his colleague, Wafa Abu Mezyed, saw an ambulance that had just evacuated the dead bodies, - so they drove back out of the village. Israeli tanks were still in the area, and the two journalists deliberately parked their jeep more than 1.5 kms away, for their own safety. Wafa and Fadel were both wearing bullet-proof white vests daubed with the word PRESS, and their jeep had REUTERS daubed on its roof and sides. When Fadel started filming, a crowd of young local boys gathered around him. Moments later, one of the Israeli tanks fired a shell that killed Fadel and two of the young boys standing beside him. As Wafa Abu Mezyed flung himself on the ground, the tank fired a second shell that killed 22-year old Khalil Ismail Doghmush. Altogether, thirteen civilians, including nine children, were massacred in Juhor al-dik that day.  

Last week, the Israeli military finally responded to Reuters’ demand for an explanation into the killing of Fadel Shanaa. The Israeli Military Advocate General, Brigadier General Avihai Mendelblit, claimed the Israel troops in Juhor al-dik could not see whether Fadel Shanaa was operating a camera, or brandishing a weapon, and therefore ‘….the decision to fire at the target was sound’. But the families of the nine children who were killed in Juhor al-dik have received no explanation at all, and they probably never will.  

Hussein Mahmoud Mohammed, who lives in Juhor al-dik, survived the first Israeli attack, but saw his father, Mahmoud Ahmed Mohammed, killed in front of him. Hussein speaks with a quiet stutter, and gazes in front of him with the blank look of someone who cannot put what they’ve seen into words. He is thirteen years old. But Wafa Abu Mezyed, who saw his colleague killed in front of him, has no doubts about what happened on April 16. ‘The attack that I witnessed [in Juhor al-dik] that killed my colleague Fadel, and the boys who died with him, was deliberate and intentional’ he told me. Palestinian and international journalists working in Palestine are angry and dismayed at the Israeli ruling, which not only exonerated the tank crew for killing an unarmed civilian – but, chillingly, means that now it is OK to shell journalists in Palestine.   About author

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