Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Israel forces visitors to sign waivers

FOREIGNERS BEWARE In the wake of recent `accidents,' expatriates entering Gaza are to sign an agreement absolving the military of accountability if it shoots them


The Israeli military on Thursday began obliging foreigners entering the Gaza Strip to sign waivers absolving the army from responsibility if it shoots them. Visitors must also declare that they are not peace activists.

The move came hours before an autopsy on James Miller -- the British cameraman killed in a Gaza refugee camp -- confirmed that he was almost certainly killed by an Israeli soldier, despite the army's assertions to the contrary.

On Thursday, the British government demanded an Israeli military police criminal investigation into Miller's death and the shooting of another Briton by the army in Gaza, Tom Hurndall, a peace activist.

Hurndall is in a coma with severe brain damage after being shot in the head by an Israeli soldier last month as he attempted to protect a small child from gunfire. The UK Foreign Office minister, Mike O'Brien, called in the Israeli ambassador to London to press the demand, which diplomatic sources portrayed as a ratcheting up of pressure on the Israeli government.

"On the basis of the evidence we've seen, we feel this case is so serious that we are asking for a military police investigation," said a Foreign Office spokesperson.

The waiver to enter Gaza requires foreigners, including UN relief workers, to acknowledge that they are entering a danger zone and will not hold the Israeli army responsible if they are shot or injured. The army document also warns visitors that they are forbidden from approaching the security fences next to Jewish settlements or entering "military zones" in Rafah refugee camp close to the Egyptian border where Miller was shot dead on Saturday.

He was the third foreigner killed or severely wounded in the area in recent weeks besides numerous Palestinian civilians hit by Israeli fire, many of them children. The army invariably claims the victims were caught in crossfire. Palestinians say most of the shooting is indiscriminate and reckless, or worse.

The latest victims include a one-year-old boy, Alian Bashiti, shot dead in his home in neighboring Khan Younis refugee camp on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Israel's forensic institute issued its autopsy report which backs up the accounts of witnesses who say that Miller was killed by a shot from an Israeli armored vehicle. A video of the shooting also appears to undermine Israeli army claims that Miller, 34, was caught in crossfire and that soldiers shot in his direction in response to incoming fire from a Palestinian gunman nearby.

The film shows three journalists in flak jackets and helmets, clearly marked with the letters TV. They are shouting "Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there? We are British journalists." A single shot is heard and then another followed by the sound of Miller groaning after he was hit. There is no sound of crossfire.

On Thursday, the army said it had yet to receive the report and therefore could not comment.

The military also now requires visitors to Gaza to declare that they have no affiliation to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which is close to becoming a banned organization since it was revealed that members met with two British suicide bombers days before the attack on a Tel Aviv bar last week in which three people were murdered.

The ISM acknowledges that the bombers -- Asif Hanif, who blew himself up, and Omar Sharif, whose bomb failed to explode and who is still being hunted -- attended one of its meetings but says they were not members and the organization had no idea of their intent.

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