May 15, 2008 - 4:45pm

A month after journalist Fadel Shana was killed by an Israel Defense Forces tank crew in the Gaza Strip, Reuters renewed its demand on Thursday for a prompt explanation from the Israeli army of why it fired on its cameraman.

Shana, a 24-year-old Palestinian, was killed on April 16 along with eight mostly teenage bystanders by darts known as flechettes that burst out of a tank shell in mid-air. Shana had been filming about 1.5 km (a mile) from two Israeli tanks.

The IDF army said it had completed an initial field investigation that had determined the soldiers had followed orders and acted appropriately. But military lawyers still had to study the case before the army could give a full account.
"A month has passed since Fadel Shana was killed by Israeli forces while responsibly going about his professional duties," said Reuters Middle East Managing Editor Mark Thompson.

"We urge the IDF to release its report on the incident now so that media organizations and the military can cooperate on ways to ensure journalists can continue to cover this conflict."

Independent investigators commissioned by Reuters have prepared their own preliminary report on the incident, which raises serious questions over why the tank opened fire.

A spokeswoman for the IDF, Major Avital Leibovich, said: "We are working as quickly as possible to complete the investigation at all levels."

The IDF's Advocate General's office, the military judiciary, was now looking at a field-level inquiry which, she said, had already concluded the soldiers had done no wrong.

Confirming that the tank crews involved had not been suspended and were still operating around the Gaza Strip, Leibovich said: "They acted according to their orders.

"This is the conclusion of the field level investigation."

She added: "We can say for sure that the soldiers weren't able to detect that it was a member of the press. The IDF has no intention of targeting press people."

Both Shana and soundman Wafa Abu Mizyed, who was wounded in the wrist, were wearing blue body armour bearing the word "Press" on fluorescent strips. Their vehicle also bore "TV" and "Press" markings. They had been working in open view, on a quiet road off Gaza's main highway for some time before the tank is seen opening fire in the final moments of Shana's videotape.

Media groups operating in the Palestinian enclave have been urging the Israeli military to improve troops' awareness of the presence of journalists and to coordinate where possible.

Rejecting a request that IDF officers relay information to field commanders from journalists about their movements in Gaza to avoid media crews being inadvertently targeted, the army said in a statement last week: "There will be no coordination of press movement and activity in the areas of IDF operations"


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