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Newspapers trapped in political quagmire; sound bombs hurled at journalists

Three pro-Fatah Palestinian newspapers published in the West Bank have been barred from distribution in the Gaza Strip, and told not to criticise the Hamas government in order to be permitted into the country, report the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Index on Censorship. MADA has also condemned the use of tear gas and sound bombs by Israeli forces on Palestinian journalists covering protests last week.

"Al-Hayat al-Jadida", "Al-Ayyam", and "Al-Quds" newspapers had been banned since 2008 as part of Israeli sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities recently lifted the ban and allowed the three newspapers to enter Gaza on 7 July, but Hamas security forces stopped distributors in Gaza from picking them up.

In addition to agreeing not to criticise Hamas, the owners of the three dailies are being pressured to allow the "Felesteen" and "Al-Risalah" newspapers to be printed and distributed in the West Bank, where they have been denied access since June 2007.

The chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and editorial director of "Al-Ayyam", Abdel Nasser Alnajar, demanded that the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza avoid involving the media in the political divisions between Fatah and Hamas.

Palestinian journalists were also under fierce attack on 16 and 17 July from Israeli soldiers "throwing sound and gas bombs between the legs of journalists, causing them to stop taking photos," says MADA. Several Palestinian journalists were reporting on peaceful demonstrations in the towns of Beit Omar near Hebron and Alma'sara near Bethlehem. One journalist was hit by a sound bomb "under his left ear, which left him unconscious and with a hole in his left eardrum and main auditory nerve," reports MADA. Other journalists were beaten and arrested.

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