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Gaza journalists endangered by armed groups' use of vehicle marked "TV", warns Human Rights Watch

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of a Human Rights Watch press release:

Gaza: Armed Palestinian Groups Commit Grave Crimes

Fighters Execute Captives, Attack Hospital, Put Journalists at Serious Risk

(New York, 13 June 2007) - During recent fighting in the Gaza Strip, armed Palestinian groups have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.

In internal Palestinian fighting over the last three days, both Fatah and Hamas military forces have summarily executed captives, killed people not involved in hostilities, and engaged in gun battles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals. On Saturday, armed Palestinians from Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade used a vehicle with a "TV" insignia to attack an Israeli military position on the border with Gaza.

In the June 9 incident, four armed Palestinians drove a white jeep bearing "TV" insignias to a fence on the Gaza-Israel border and fired at Israeli soldiers. The Israelis returned fire, killing one Palestinian. Spokesmen for Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of Fatah, claimed responsibility for the attack. An Islamic Jihad spokesperson denied that Palestinians had put press markings on the jeep used in the June 9 attack, and accused the Israeli military of doing so after the fact. However, photos taken by the Associated Press as the attack was under way show the letters "TV" written in red on the front of the jeep.

"Using a vehicle with press markings to carry out a military attack is a serious violation of the laws of war, and it also puts journalists at risk," said Whitson.

Customary international humanitarian law provides that journalists not taking direct part in hostilities in armed conflict zones "shall be considered as civilians." The deliberate abuse of this protected status in order to breach the confidence of an adversary in an attempt to kill, injure or capture them, would amount to an act of perfidy, a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

The Palestinian Journalists Union on Sunday criticized the use by armed factions of press insignia in a statement: "The use of vehicles that carry "Press," "TV" or other signs . . . exposes journalists' lives to danger, gives the Israeli occupation a pretext to target and kill journalists and restricts their ability to perform their professional and national duties . . . We demand all parties stop using these methods."

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