Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Israel says slain journalist a Hamas member

AFP, JERUSALEM

Mortally wounded Palestinian cameraman Yasser Murtaja is evacuated on Friday last week in the southern Gaza Strip.

Photo: Reuters

Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday accused a Palestinian journalist killed by the army during protests along the Gaza border of having been a member of the military wing of Hamas.

The claim was immediately rejected by one of Yasser Murtaja’s colleagues, who called the statement “ridiculous.”

Separately the US Department of State said Murtaja’s production company, Ain Media, had recently been granted funding by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), although no technical assistance or equipment had yet been given.

Lieberman told journalists that Murtaja was a “terrorist with a prior association with the military arm of Hamas,” claiming he held a “rank similar to captain.”

He said the journalist had been paid by Hamas since 2011 and had used a drone to collect information on Israeli forces along the border.

He did not produce evidence for the claims and did not say whether Murtaja had flown a drone during the clashes on Friday last week, when he was shot.

Murtaja, a cameraman, was wearing a press vest when he was hit a few hundred meters from the border, witnesses said.

The Israeli Army has not said if he was deliberately targeted or hit by accident.

Murtaja was well known in the Gaza media scene. With Ain Media he worked on documentaries published on al-Jazeera and with the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未).

Ain Media cofounder Rushdi Al-Serraj said Lieberman’s statements were “ridiculous comments that are not worth responding to.”

“Yasser has been working for years in the press and making films for the United Nations, China and others,” he said. “They killed a journalist and should confess, it is a crime.”

Hamas said in a statement that it had video evidence that proved Murtaja was wearing a press vest and using a video camera, not a drone, when he was killed, but the statement did not respond to Lieberman’s other allegations regarding Hamas links.

Murtaja’s funeral was attended by Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniya, who regularly attends funerals of those killed in conflict with Israel, even if they are not Hamas members.

Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians since March 30 in protests and clashes along the border with Gaza.

Israel has rejected calls from the EU, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other for an independent investigation into the deaths.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said USAID had last month approved US$11,700 in funding for Ain Media under a program that supports private sector development. The grant was for technical assistance and equipment.

Additional reporting by Reuters

This story has been viewed 1165 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top