Steve Weizman
The Associated Press
December 8, 2008 - 1:00am

Israeli defense officials have reinstated a ban on international journalists entering the Gaza Strip, despite protests from the heads of major news organizations and an appeal to the Supreme Court.

After weeks of media protests, the ban was lifted Thursday, only to be re-imposed the following day as part of a wider closure of the Gaza border in response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said Monday that the closure, including the press ban, would be reviewed daily. Israeli officials have said access will be restored when the Palestinians stop the cross-border rocket fire.

Israel imposed the ban Nov. 5 as a truce began to unravel in a flurry of Israeli strikes against militants and Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns. The violence has continued almost every day, straining a 5-month-old truce between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has not responded to a letter from world news leaders including AP Chief Executive and President Tom Curley, Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, ABC News President David Westin, BBC News Director Helen Boaden and other media executives.

The Israeli government has long banned Israeli journalists from entering Gaza because of fears for their safety, but foreign reporters have been permitted to go in, even during times of heavy fighting.

Since the travel ban went into effect, coverage in Gaza has been largely left to local Palestinian staffers and a handful of foreign journalists who were already there, including two AP reporters.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents international media operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories, has asked Israel's Supreme Court to overturn the travel ban, saying it amounts to a serious violation of press freedom.

The court has given the government until Tuesday to respond to the legal challenge, and has set a date for a hearing on the issue later this month.


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