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Reporter arrested as she returns from Gaza Strip

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns Israeli newspaper reporter Amira Hass's arrest at the Erez border crossing on 12 May 2009 as she returned to Israel after spending four months in the Gaza Strip reporting for the Tel Aviv-based daily "Haaretz" in violation of a military ban on Israeli citizens visiting the Palestinian Territories.

"Her arrest is disturbing," Reporters Without Borders said. "Hass clearly violated Israeli law by residing in the Gaza Strip for four months, but Israel's blanket ban on Israeli citizens entering the occupied Palestinian Territories obstructs the work of its journalists and violates press freedom."

Hass told Reporters Without Borders that the Israeli police arrested her at about 4 p.m. (local time) as she was leaving the Gaza Strip on a charge of "illegally entering enemy territory." With her lawyer and the newspaper's deputy editor present, she was questioned for three hours but limited her answers to confirming her identity.

She said she was finally released on condition that she would not try to re-enter the Gaza Strip by any means or route. But she added that "the ban is only valid for 30 days."

Hass entered the Gaza Strip by the southern Rafah border crossing at her newspaper's request four months ago and wrote many stories about the impact of Israel's Operation "Cast Lead" (from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009) on the territory's population.

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