First Published: 2008-08-14

 
Israel clears troops who killed Reuters journalist
 

Reuters deeply disturbed by Israeli conclusion, says Tel Aviv’s move severely curtails freedom of press.

 

Middle East Online

Shana was killed along with eight other civilians

TEL AVIV - The Israeli military said Wednesday it had cleared troops of responsibility for the killing of a Reuters cameraman in the Gaza Strip, saying the decision to fire a tank round at him was "reasonable."

Fadel Shana, 24, was killed on April 16 along with eight other civilians when an Israeli tank fired at him as he filmed it from around 1.5 kilometres (a mile) away.

"The decision to authorise the shot was reasonable given the circumstances of the incident," the military said in a statement. "No further legal action will be taken."

"The facts show that the incident occurred against the backdrop of severe hostilities in the area. Earlier in the day three IDF (Israeli army) soldiers had been killed in an attack," it added.

The military said the tank crew identified "suspicious figures" and mistook Shana's camera for a weapon.

"Only in retrospect was it discovered that the suspicious figures were Reuters cameramen wearing vests, and that the object mounted on a tripod was a camera and not an anti-tank missile or a tripod-mounted mortar," it said.

Reuters' own investigation and witnesses said Shana was wearing a blue flak jacket and driving a vehicle both clearly marked with press and TV tags, and that none of those killed or wounded were militants.

Reuters said on Wednesday it was deeply disturbed by a conclusion that severely curtails the freedom of the media to cover the conflict by effectively giving soldiers a free hand to kill without being sure they were not firing on journalists.

Shana filmed two tanks positioned about 1.5 km (a mile) from where he was standing for several minutes before, in a chilling final 2 seconds of video, his camera captured one tank firing a shell that burst overhead, showering the journalist and others with thousands of metal darts known as flechettes.

Their blue flak jackets, like the car, were marked "PRESS". The army said the troops could not see those signs. Journalists in Gaza say they have rarely seen militants wear flak jackets.

Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger said: "I'm extremely disappointed that this report condones a disproportionate use of deadly force in a situation the army itself admitted had not been analysed clearly.

"They would appear to take the view that any raising of a camera into position could garner a deadly response."

Reuters wrote to ask precisely why the soldiers ruled out the possibility that Shana was a cameraman, why the fact he stood in full view of the tanks for some minutes did not suggest he had no hostile intent and why the tank crew, if concerned but unsure, did not simply reverse a few metres out of sight.

The Foreign Press Association in Israel said the army had a "long line of cases clearing its soldiers of deadly negligence".

It added: "The army is obligated to clearly identify its targets before firing, especially in areas where civilians and journalists are present. The mere suspicion of possible hostilities should not be enough to justify overwhelming deadly force.

"We hope that the army's conclusion does not appear to give soldiers free licence to fire without being sure of the target, greatly hindering the media's ability to cover the conflict."

In New York, Joel Campagna of the Committee to Protect Journalists said: "These findings mean that a journalist with a camera is at risk of coming under fire and there's not that much that can be done. That's unacceptable.

"It's difficult to believe ... that the IDF took the necessary precautions to avoid causing harm to civilians -- as it is obliged to do under international law."

 

Iraq forces press Mosul offensive

Tunisian public health sector struggles to heal itself

Morocco fugitive protest leader arrested

Mattis: Civilian deaths a 'fact of life' in war on IS

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Israel interior minister questioned on graft suspicions

Tunisia security forces kill IS fugitive

Egypt’s left-wing parties start searching for Sisi competitor

Political scandal grips new Algerian government

Jordan gearing up for another Ramadan with refugees

Egypt’s left-wing parties start searching for Sisi competitor

US urged to keep track of its Iraq arms supply

Images emerge of Manchester bomber as runners defy threat

Qatar risks US sanctions over support for Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood

Libya jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

Iran leader launches fierce attack on ‘milking cow’ Saudis

US-Turkish relations go from bad to worse

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US