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Journalists Killed and Injured in Israel/Palestine

Video: final footage of Reuters journalist
killed in Gaza

David Byers
The Times of London
April 17, 2008

Play Video
(Warning: the video footage contains images of a graphic nature)

The editor-in-chief of Reuters demanded that Israel launches a "thorough and immediate investigation" into the killing of one of its cameramen in the Gaza Strip yesterday (David Byers writes).

Footage of Fadel Shana, 23, being killed by a tank shell in the Gaza Strip has been released by the news agency, which said that the cameraman was hit despite clear markings that showed him to be a journalist.

After medical examinations of Shana's body, Reuters said that Israel had used a controversial type of tank shell which scatters metal darts, or flechettes, around the surrounding area after exploding, risking civilian casualties. Israel refused to comment on the report, but stated that the weapons were not illegal.

Footage released by Reuters shows Mr Shana filming a tank positioned a few hundred yards away in the distance, over the Israeli border.

The film shows a tank firing its shell, which explodes causing the picture to go blank as the camera is thrown from Mr Shana's hand.

It then cuts away to a film made by another cameraman positioned nearby, which shows the devastation left by the shell, including two youths who had been passing the scene lying dead in the road.

Mr Shana, who was from Gaza and had covered the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians for the last three years, died instantly. He had been covering events in Gaza for Reuters on a day of intense violence when 16 other Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were also killed.

In a highly unusual appeal to camera after the footage of his death, David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters News, appealed for Israel to launch an investigation into the incident.

"It is clear to me that we need a thorough and immediate investigation by the Israeli defence forces into what happened," he said.

"This is a tragic incident and one that clearly shows the risks that journalists take every day, all over the world, but all organisations, governments included, have an obligation to let professionals do their job without fear of death."

He added: "The markings on Fadel Shana’s vehicle showed clearly and unambiguously that he was a professional journalist doing his duty. We and the military must work together urgently to understand why this tragedy took place and how similar incidents can be avoided in the future."

Reuters said that an X-ray conducted at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital last night had found numerous metal darts had wounded him, landing in his chest and legs, which the organisation said showed that flechettes had been used.

Asked about the weaponry used, an Israeli army spokeswoman said: "The Israel Defence Forces do not, as a rule, comment on the weapons they use. But its weapons are legal under international law.

"Flechettes are legal under international law and a petition filed in the Supreme Court against their use was rejected."

The petition, filed in 2003 jointly by Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, claimed that the weapon should be classified as one which causes excessive injury under United Nations rules. The Israeli Supreme Court turned the request down.

The spokeswoman added: “We wish to express sorrow for the death of the Palestinian cameraman. It should be emphasised that the area in which the cameraman was hurt is an area in which ongoing fighting against armed, extreme and dangerous terrorist organisations occurs on a daily basis.

“The presence of media, photographers and other uninvolved individuals in areas of warfare is extremely dangerous and poses a threat to their lives.”

Several hundred people, including local journalists, attended Mr Shana’s funeral procession early today. His body was draped in a Palestinian flag and his shattered camera and flak jacket were borne aloft on a separate stretcher.

Israeli forces have been fighting running battles with militants from a range of Islamist splinter groups in Gaza over the last few months, with a particular upsurge since the Islamist Hamas took control of the territory in a military coup last summer.

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