November 12 2008
Israel has barred foreign journalists from entering the Gaza Strip for a week, in a move media have assailed as a serious violation of press freedom.
Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said the restrictions were imposed because Palestinian militants have resumed their rocket fire from Gaza, in violation of a 5-month-old truce. The only people allowed to enter and leave Gaza under the policy are international aid workers and Palestinian patients seeking medical treatment outside the territory, he said.
Because the Islamic militant Hamas group that rules Gaza “is not doing anything to stop the rockets firing into Israel, the decision is that only humanitarian movement is allowed,” Lerner said.
Journalists dismissed that explanation as implausible and said current hostilities did not justify the ban on access.
“It is absolutely essential that international journalists be allowed to enter the territory and deliver their news reports to Israel and the rest of the world,” said a statement from the Foreign Press Association, which represents international media covering Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“We note that humanitarian cases are still going in and out, proving safe passage is possible,” added the statement, issued earlier this week. “The curtailing of journalists’ right to enter Gaza is a serious violation of press freedom.”
The Israeli military said some 75 rockets have been fired at southern Israel from Gaza since the barrages resumed last week, prompting Israel to attack militant targets, seal cargo crossings and restrict fuel shipments.