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Gunmen storm independent news agency amid continuing impunity in Gaza

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the impunity with which journalists are attacked in the Gaza Strip after gunmen stormed the offices of the independent news agency Palmedia in Gaza City, now the epicentre of violence against the press in the Palestinian Territories on 5 June 2007.

No attempt has been made to identify and punish those responsible for the many attacks on news media and journalists by armed groups, the Palestinian Authority's security forces and the Executive Force of Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh's party, Hamas, since the start of the year, the press freedom organisation said.

"The entire journalistic profession is now paying dearly for the instability in the Palestinian Territories resulting from the clashes between Hamas and Fatah," Reporters Without Borders said. "Violence against journalists in Gaza City is left unpunished. Not only have the Palestinian authorities proved powerless to restore order in the Gaza Strip but their security services are themselves often involved in the attacks on the press."

Many of Palmedia's journalists were present on 5 June when around 20 gunmen stormed into their offices firing shots in the air. They left 25 minutes later taking computers, telephones and transmission equipment. No security forces intervened although the news agency is located less than 50 metres from the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority's general security department and less than 500 metres from President Mahmoud Abbas' offices.

There have been at least 15 attacks against journalists in Gaza City since the start of the year. Two journalists, Suleyman Al-Aashi and Mohammed Mattar Abdu of the pro-Hamas daily "Filistin", were killed near the headquarters of the Fatah militias on 13 May. Three journalists have also been kidnapped and one of them, BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, is still being held hostage.

At least eight news media have also been attacked or ransacked. In February, for example, members of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas party, and members of the Hamas government-controlled Executive Force overran the studios of radio Al Aamal in Gaza City, destroying equipment and putting its broadcasting antennae out of commission.

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