Israeli Spokesman: 'We Are Not Targeting The Media'

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev defends the air strikes that hit a building housing local and foreign journalists in Gaza. "We hit the targets we want and we are not targeting the media," Regev said. He said journalists affiliated with Hamas are "not legitimate."

Al Jazeera's Darren Jordon had quite a confrontational discussion with a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister over a series of attacks on a media building in Gaza over the past two days.

Israeli missiles hit the building twice, injuring at least six journalists in the process. The strikes were condemned by world press freedom organizations, although Israel said it was aiming for Hamas communications equipment on the roof of the buildings. On Monday, it killed a member of the Islamic Jihad group in one of the buildings.

Speaking to Darren Jordon, Israeli spokesman Mark Regev defended the strikes.

"We don't target journalists," he said. "We target Hamas."

"Rockets don't stop at a roof," Jordon replied in response. "You've got the intelligence that journalists were all over that building. It's never going to be precise enough that you can't stop injuring people below the roof."

"As far as I know, no foreign journalists were hurt whatsoever," Regev said. "We were surgical. We took out the target that we wanted to take out."

"You cannot sit there and say no journalists were injured," Jordon replied sharply. "One person had their leg blown off. That is a fact."

Indeed, one man lost his leg -- a cameraman with the local al-Quds TV -- the attack was focused on the 11th floor, where the office of al-Quds TV is located.

"Maybe we have a discussion about who is a journalist," Regev said. He called Al-Aqsa, one of the outlets targeted in the strikes, a "Hamas command and control facility," adding, "Just as in other totalitarian regimes, the media is used by the regime for command and control and also for security purposes. From our point of view, that's not a legitimate journalist."

Even if one accepted the notion that reporters for Al-Aqsa are not "legitimate" journalists — which press freedom groups like Reporters Without Borders do not — there were still several journalists from other Palestinian agencies who were injured. Many international outlets, including Reuters, Al-Arabiya and Russia Today, had their offices damaged.

"There were foreign journalists in that building," Jordon said. "There were foreign journalists near to that building."

"None of whom were hurt," Regev said.

"What are you saying, that a local Arab journalist's life is any less than an international journalist?" Jordon asked.

"Unconditionally, no. We see all journalists as legitimate people," Regev responded, after some prodding from Jordon. "We respect the free press ... if you can bring me someone who is a bona fide journalist who was injured, I want to know about it."

"You seem to be saying that Palestinians can't have a free press too," Jordon shot back. "Will Israel apologize for the injuries caused in this attack?"

"Israel does not target journalists, and I think there are very legitimate questions about Hamas using journalists as human shields," Regev said.

"Let me remind you, journalists are not armed combatants," Jordon said. "Those journalists have a job to get the story out ... you clearly are targeting the media, aren't you? You're shooting the messenger."

"Not true at all," Regev replied.

This discussion was about as productive as one of those "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" dialogues.

Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip have continued for a seventh day, despite calls for a truce, with the overall death toll reaching 111, according to medical sources.

On Monday evening, two boys, aged two and four, and their parents were killed in Jabaliya refugee camp located in a residential area. More than a dozen people were injured, mostly women and children.

And in an early Tuesday morning air raid, at least four people were injured when F-16 fighter jets hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, also located in a residential area.

Diplomatic efforts are said to have intensified, yet a report Monday evening states Israel's preparations for a ground offensive are now complete:

Monday saw more carnage, more heated words and more damage on both sides. There was also more movement toward a possible intensification as Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said Israel had finished its planning for a ground invasion of Gaza.
...

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor confirmed late Monday that "negotiations are going on" that may lead to a cease-fire, though he didn't offer any details.

About Diane Sweet

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Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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