GAZA (Reuters) - Israel’s killing of two Palestinian journalists and attacks on media facilities during its Gaza offensive last month violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
Two cameramen working for al-Aqsa TV, a station affiliated with Gaza’s Hamas-run government, were killed by Israeli air strikes on their car on November 20.
Israeli planes also bombed a tower block housing many of Gaza’s local and international media offices, in attacks that Israel said at the time targeted the communications infrastructure and personnel of militant groups.
“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command centre does not make it so,” Sarah Leah Witson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement released by the New York-based organisation.
“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,” she said.
Human Rights Watch said at least 10 media workers were wounded in attacks on three buildings housing media facilities. A two-year-old boy who lived across the street from one of the buildings was killed, the organisation added.
Commenting on the group’s statement, the Israeli military said it “acts in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, despite the ongoing deliberate violations and abuse of these laws by the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip”.
“The details of the events mentioned in the report are being checked,” the military said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “Once this process is complete, we will be able to provide a comprehensive response.”
Some 170 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and six Israelis, including two soldiers, were killed during the offensive that Israel launched with the declared aim of curbing cross-border rocket fire.
Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Alison Williams