A group of French journalists has issued an open letter calling on Israel and Egypt to allow international correspondents to enter the Gaza Strip to cover the situation on the ground.
The Palestinian territory has been cut off from the outside world since the deadly Hamas terror attack on Southern Israel on October 7, which killed 1,400 people and resulted in the taking of more than 220 hostages, most of them civilians.
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International journalists can usually cross in and out of the Gaza Strip from Israel via the heavily fortified Erez border crossing, which is managed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
The one requirement is that they are in possession of a press card issued by Israel’s Government Press Office.
The crossing was badly damaged by Hamas on October 7 and is now out-of-bounds for all non-military personnel as Israel steps up its bombing campaign and ground incursion aimed at wiping out Hamas and getting the hostages back.
Gaza’s Rafah Crossing into Egypt is also closed for people traffic with limited aid supplies getting in and out after being checked by Israeli troops.
“After a 16-year blockade, Gaza has been subjected to a total siege since October 10. No-one is allowed in or out of the Palestinian territory,” read the letter.
“We have been able to gather accounts of the victims of the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7, we must be allowed to work in security to recount what is going on in Gaza.”
They noted that international correspondents had been allowed into the territory during the 2014 Gaza War, in which Israel launched Operation Protective Edge.
“During the summer of 2014, the Israeli army opened access to the international press, thus guaranteeing our freedom to inform. This is no longer the case… Let us into the Gaza Strip to carry out our profession. We understand the risks,” read the letter.
Signed by the journalist committees of nearly all France’s main news outlets as well as 30 individual journalists experienced in covering the Middle East conflict, the missive was published on the websites of French publications Mediapart, Libération, Politis, Orient XXI, l’Orient le jour.
Talking about the initiative in an interview with French international news channel France 24, independent journalist Céline Martelet said conflicts needed to be reported independently first-hand on both sides.
“In 2014, there were a number of us inside. We’d rotate in and out,” she said.
The job of capturing the situation on the ground has fallen on the 1,200 Palestinian Gaza-based journalists working for local, regional and international outlets.
An unprecedented number of Gaza journalists have died in the latest round of violence, while many have also lost family members in the Israeli air strikes, which have killed more than 8,000 people, according to the Gaza health authorities. Israel refutes this figure but has not given an alternative estimate.
According to figures released by the Brussel-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on October 26, at least twenty-three Palestinian journalists have been killed, several have been injured and others are missing.
The consortium called for more to be done to ensure the safety of journalists and for an independent enquiry into the deaths to date, saying it feared the death toll within the Gaza media community will rise as Israel’s military operation expands.
“If those who are our eyes and ears disappear, we will be deaf and blind, and the Gaza Strip will become an information black hole, a media blackout imposed by Israel, to use the expression of Reporters Without Borders,” read the letter.
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