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Media Committee Criticizes Israel

Wed Apr 3, 7:14 AM ET
By STEVE WEIZMAN, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM (AP) - The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has joined a growing chorus of other groups criticizing Israel's policy of expelling journalists from occupied cities in the West Bank. The group also accused Israeli troops of shooting at reporters.
The organization said in a statement Tuesday that it has sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) protesting the military's attempts to block reporters from working in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Qalqiliya. The Israeli occupation of the cities is part of a six-day crackdown on militants in the West Bank.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists and the Foreign Press Association in Israel have also protested the Israeli policy.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also accused Israel of attacking reporters. The group said that troops on Monday fired on an armored car used by NBC correspondent Dana Lewis and his two-person crew. The car was clearly marked as a media vehicle, the group said. No one was injured.

The organization also said that BBC reporter Orla Guerin and her TV crew came under Israeli fire Monday while covering a peaceful protest in Bethlehem. No one was injured.

The Israeli military early Wednesday would not comment on the alleged attacks and the policy to keep reporters out of occupied West Bank cities.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Government Press Office revoked the credentials of two Abu Dhabi TV journalists and threatened legal action against America's CNN and NBC for ignoring military orders and broadcasting from Ramallah.

A statement said the government press cards of Abu Dhabi reporter Leileh Odeh, who is based in Israel, and visiting correspondent Bassam Azawi were canceled after the satellite channel on March 31 filed a story alleging that Israeli troops in Ramallah executed a group of young men in the city's Islamic club.

"Staff of the channel have for some time operated crude anti-Israel propaganda and have been taking a hostile and combative attitude, creating uproar in the Arab world," the statement said.

Abu Dhabi Television staff could not be reached for comment.

Israel and the Palestinians have contradictory accounts of Saturday's Ramallah incident.

The Palestinians say that a group of 22 Palestinian policemen, seeking to surrender during intense gunbattles in the city, followed Israeli orders to strip to their underwear and lay down their weapons. As they walked out of the building where they had taken refuge, soldiers opened fire, killing five men, Palestinians said.

The military says troops entered the building in search of Palestinian militants and immediately came under fire. The soldiers shot back, killing some of the five outright and fatally wounding others. Four soldiers were wounded in the exchange, the army said.

The Government Press Office also said it had sent written complaints to CNN and NBC, whose correspondents continued broadcasting from Ramallah after Israel declared the city a closed military zone, off limits to journalists.

NBC did not immediately return phone calls asking for its response, and CNN's Jerusalem bureau declined comment.

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