/ 18 April 2008

Journalist killed by metal darts from Israeli shell

A Palestinian journalist who died in Gaza on Wednesday was killed by metal darts from a shell fired by an Israeli tank, doctors said on Thursday.

Thousands gathered for the funeral of Fadel Shana (23), a Reuters cameraman. His body was carried through the streets of Gaza City, draped in a Palestinian flag. His camera and bloodied flak jacket were carried on a second stretcher.

Reuters said X-rays showed several inch-long darts, known as flechettes, embedded in Shana’s chest and legs as well as his flak jacket. His jacket was marked with a fluorescent ”Press” sign and his car, which was not armoured, was marked ”Press and TV”.

Flechettes are small metal darts contained in some tank shells that explode above the ground and can cover a wide area. They have been used in conflicts since World War I and have been used by the Israeli military in the past. In 2003, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition by two human rights groups asking for flechette shells to be banned in Gaza.

The Israeli military on Thursday refused to discuss which weapons it had used, but said all the ammunition used by the military was legal.

A military official said: ”We wish to express sorrow for the death … the area in which the cameraman was hurt is an area in which ongoing fighting against armed, extreme and dangerous terrorist organisations occurs on a daily basis. The presence of media … in areas of warfare poses a threat to their lives.”

Reuters called for a swift investigation. David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief, said: ”The markings on Shana’s vehicle showed clearly that he was a … journalist doing his duty. We must work together to understand why this tragedy took place.”

Shana was one of at least 18 Palestinians killed on Wednesday after three Israeli soldiers died in a battle with Hamas gunmen inside Gaza, close to the Nahal Oz fuel terminal. Among the Palestinian dead were 14 civilians, including eight children, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nearly all were killed at the village of Juhor al-Dik, in central Gaza.

According to the human rights group, which investigated the killings, nine civilians were killed when they were struck by two missiles in the village on Wednesday. A further 18 were injured.

Shana arrived shortly afterwards and began filming. The last seconds of footage show an Israeli tank on a hilltop. There is a flash and a cloud of smoke as the tank fires a shell. Moments later there is a second flash close to the camera as dark shapes shoot out. The tape goes black, apparently as Shana is hit.

In an interview with al-Jazeera television two months ago, Shana talked about his work. ”It is impossible to stop me from working as a journalist,” he said at the time. ”I would either have to die or lose my legs.” He was the ninth journalist killed in the West Bank and Gaza since 2000.

On Thursday, former US president Jimmy Carter held a second day of meetings in Cairo with leaders from the Hamas Islamist movement. Among the leaders he met was Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas hardliner and the movement’s most senior figure in Gaza.

On Friday, Carter was due in Damascus, where he was expected to meet Khaled Meshal, Hamas’s exiled head. — guardian.co.uk Â