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Heavy fighting between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip coupled with Israel's air strikes and raids against Palestinians is endangering the lives of journalists, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres, RSF) and local human rights organisations.

Clashes between the factions broke out on 13 May over control of the security forces, say various news reports. According to the Associated Press (AP), some 50 people have died over the past week in the deadliest Palestine in-fighting since a unity government deal was struck in March.

Among the dead is Issam Mohammad Awad al-Joujou, a journalist for the Hamas-affiliated website Palestine Live, who was killed by gunmen in Gaza City while on his way to cover the clashes on 15 May, says CPJ. A newspaper employee and his colleague at the pro-Hamas daily "Filistin" were killed two days earlier when they came under fire at a roadblock in the Gaza Strip, as reported in last week's "IFEX Communiqué".

Then on 16 May, CPJ and the Palestinian Center for Development & Media Freedoms (Mada) report that Fatah gunmen took over the roofs of two Gaza City buildings, which house several news agencies, including the BBC, al-Jazeera, Turkish Ihlas News Agency and Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation. The gunmen clashed with Hamas fighters on the ground outside the buildings, trapping the journalists in the middle of heavy shooting. According to CPJ, the buildings sustained extensive damages and vehicles belonging to the journalists were destroyed, but no one was hurt.

On 18 May, Abdelsalam Mussa Abu Askar, Abu Dhabi TV's bureau chief in Gaza, was abducted allegedly by Hamas supporters on his way home from work, reports RSF. He was released several hours later. According to RSF, it is the first time a Palestinian journalist has been kidnapped in Palestine. Meanwhile, the BBC journalist Alan Johnston, a British citizen, is still being held.

"The resumption of fighting between rival Palestinian groups has made it very difficult for journalists to work in the Gaza Strip," says RSF. "Most residents are staying indoors and, for the most part, TV journalists are only able to film from the windows of their bureaux."

Meanwhile, after a six-month lull, Israel resumed air strikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip on 16 May in response to heavy rocket fire. More than 40 Palestinians, most of them militants, have been killed, reports AP.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) says that two journalists were wounded when Israeli war planes attacked the Rafah site of the Executive Force of the Palestinian Interior Ministry on 16 May. Over the weekend, RSF reports that Israeli troops also raided mainly pro-Hamas TV and radio stations in the West Bank, forcing some of them off the air.

"The Israeli army is yet again resorting to intimidatory methods to put pressure on media consider hostile to Israel," RSF says.

Visit these links:
- CPJ on fighting in Gaza:
- RSF on abductions:
- RSF on Israel raids:
- Associated Press:
- Mada news on the Press Emblem website:
(22 May 2007)

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