Journalists Protest Israeli Actions in Gaza

Journalists in the Gaza Strip symbolically and literally laid down their cameras Monday, refusing to cover any Israel Defense Forces military operations taking place in Gaza for the day. They are demanding the Israeli government release the results of the investigation into the death of a Reuters journalist killed in Gaza exactly two months ago.

On April 16, an Israeli tank shell killed Reuters video photojournalist Fadel Shana, 24, and injured his soundman, 25-year-old Wafa Abu Mizyed.

According to Reuters Deputy Bureau Chief Julian Rake, Shana had been operating according to standard press procedure. When he was killed, he had been wearing a flak jacket clearly marked with press symbols and his car was marked with press stickers.

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"Fadel Shana was operating cautiously. He was doing everything right, which makes it all the more troubling that this happened," Rake told ABC News in a telephone interview from Gaza.

Rake said that Shana was in full view of the tanks and was aware of them for several minutes before the strike. In fact, Shana was filming one of the tanks.

His final seconds of tape reveal his own death — the footage shows an explosion in the distance, followed by ensuing blackness once the camera was hit.

The explosion, which also killed eight civilian bystanders, sent shockwaves through the journalist community, Rake said.

"People are unwilling to embark on missions they would have embarked on," he said. "Journalists have been de facto restricting the way they cover operations inside Gaza."

The journalists' protest in Gaza today was intended to put pressure on the Israeli government to provide answers to the public and to Shana's family.

"Two months seems like an extraordinarily long time to provide these answers," Rake said.

However, Major Avital Leibovich, senior foreign press spokeswoman for the Israeli Defense Force, was unaware of any protest taking place today. She said the IDF is still checking on some details in the investigation.

"When we have conclusions we will release them, of course," she told ABC News.

In the wake of Shana's death, the IDF issued a statement clarifying its policy in early May.

"The IDF wishes to emphasize that it does not take any responsibility for the presence of foreign journalists in operational or combat zones in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip."

The statement went on to say that any journalist who enters these areas is acting under his own will and responsibility. "There will be no coordination of press movement and activity in the areas of IDF operations."

Leibovich said that this policy is standard everywhere.

"There's nothing here to make a deal of," she said.

"All over the world, journalists choose to enter combat zones and have to bear responsibilities for their actions there. In Israel we educate our military not to target civilians or media and we will continue to do so. No Israeli soldier wants to target a civilian or journalist intentionally," Leibovich said.

Rake responded to this statement, describing it as "very worrying."

"It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to take this as some kind of warning," he said.

In the past, the press had a relatively open and constructive relationship with the IDF, according to Rake.

"Obviously, journalists were not expecting the IDF to coordinate anything with them," he said. "But anecdotally, journalists say that they were able to engage with the IDF, especially when they feared for their safety."

The Foreign Press Association in Israel issued a statement on June 3, stating that it is "essential" for the military to take journalists' presence into account and coordinate movement whenever possible especially in dangerous situations.

"We reject any suggestion that journalists should not be present in combat areas as this negates our vital mission as witnesses to the important events of our time," the FPA statement reads.

Board member of the Foreign Press Association, Connie Mus, told ABC News that the FPA supports the protest in Gaza today and will continue to press the IDF for the findings of the Fadel Shana investigation. "It is shameful that the IDF is keeping silent," he said.

"No foreign journalist is demanding any guarantee for any fighting party here — including the IDF — to guarantee our safety," Mus said. "But certain international rules have to be taken into account. So far I don't see the IDF doing that."

Mus said that most journalists observe caution and are clearly identified as press, especially when in Gaza.

"With all the modern technology, they [the IDF] know very well who we are, what we are, and where we are," Mus said.

"The minimum we ask them is to take that into account when they start shooting around."

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