By Sheraz Sadiq
Since FRONTLINE/World reporter Patricia Naylor left
the Middle East after gathering information in summer 2002 for
"In the Line of Fire," four more journalists have been shot and killed
while covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What follows are biographical sketches
of the slain journalists, with details about the circumstances
surrounding their deaths, drawn from press reports, eyewitness accounts, and bulletins
from organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Imad Abu Zahra
Imad Abu Zahra, critically wounded by IDF gunfire in Jenin, July 12, 2002. Photo courtesy Said Shawqi Dahlah.
Imad Abu Zahra, a 34-year-old Palestinian freelance writer
and photographer, was shot by the Israeli military on July 12,
2002, while taking photos in his West Bank hometown of Jenin.
He sustained massive blood loss from his gunshot wound and died
within hours after the shooting.
Abu Zahra was a well-known figure in Jenin. He began publishing
the city's first independent weekly newspaper in 1996. He was
known as a maverick, and his independence landed him in trouble
with the Palestinian Authority (PA). He served a brief jail
sentence after criticizing the mayor of Jenin, and the PA shut
down his newspaper in early 1997.
On the day Abu Zahra died, two Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
armored vehicles were moving through the downtown section of
Jenin. One of the vehicles hit an electricity pole and got stuck.
Abu Zahra and colleague Said Shawqi Dahlah, of WAFA-Palestine
News Agency, spotted the stalled tank and rushed to the scene
to take photos.
In a Jerusalem Post article published two days after
Abu Zahra was shot, the Israeli army claimed that the tanks
were struck by stones and fruit thrown by Palestinians and that
they came under attack by "a firebomb-throwing mob." The IDF
said the soldiers fired back in self-defense.
Eyewitnesses refute this account. Dahlah says that at least
one of the tanks was firing randomly, without provocation, as it moved through downtown Jenin. People
fled as gunfire erupted, Dahlah claims, but he and Abu Zahra
stayed behind to photograph the stalled tank.
Dahlah maintains that he and Abu Zahra were the only two journalists
left in the street when they were fired upon. Just seconds after
he took his first photo, Dahlah says, the soldiers in the tank
opened fire upon him and Imad Abu Zahra. Both journalists were
wearing jackets that identified them as members of the press
(Dahlah's read "Press"; Abu Zahra's read "TV" and "Press").
"They didn't even warn us. They just started shooting us," Dahlah
Shrapnel struck Dahlah's leg and a bullet ripped through Abu
Zahra's right thigh. Abu Zahra fell to the ground but managed
to crawl into an alleyway. Dahlah wasn't able to reach him right
away because of continued firing in their direction. He also
says that it was only then, after coming across the wounded
journalists, that a crowd gathered around the tank and began
to throw stones.
There's further dispute over what happened next. The Red Crescent
(an organization in Muslim nations that is akin to the Red Cross)
in Jenin claims that the Israeli military blocked an ambulance
from reaching Abu Zahra. Israeli officials deny it.
An IDF official confirmed that Abu Zahra had been killed in
Jenin, but suggested that he couldn't be distinguished from
the mob that had allegedly attacked the IDF tank.
Dahlah, who first met Abu Zahra 15 years ago, remembers him
"not only as a journalist, but also as my friend. He was like
a brother to me. Every day, I think of him and miss him."
Dahlah says that Abu Zahra had planned to get married, and
that he'd begun to organize an archive of photo images of the
current intifada. He'd also been granted a fellowship to pursue
journalism opportunities in England, where he'd hoped to work
as an Arabic-English translator for the BBC. He was preparing
to leave for England in August 2002 -- one month after he was
Dahlah says: "Jenin (has) lost one of its great journalists."
Issam Hamza Tillawi
Issam Hamza Tillawi,
undated. Photo courtesy WAFA - Palestine News Agency.
Thiry-two-year-old Issam Hamza Tillawi, also Palestinian,
was a program host and reporter for Voice of Palestine (the
Ramallah-based official radio station of the Palestinian Authority).
Tillawi died from a gunshot wound on September 22, 2002, his
fatal attack sustained while attending, and covering, a Palestinian
demonstration to protest the Israeli military occupation in
Ramallah and the siege of Yasser Arafat's compound.
Tillawi was at the scene with his editor, who claims that
the reporter was wearing a jacket that clearly identified him
as a member of the press. And further, he says, Tillawi was
outfitted with recording equipment because he was going to interview
protesters at the demonstration. The Israeli military fired
tear gas to disperse the crowd. Eyewitnesses state that as Tillawi
ran to take cover, he was shot in the back of the head by an
Israeli sniper perched atop a building.
According to the Associated Press, the Israeli military refused
to take responsibility for Tillawi's death, acknowledging only
that Tillawi was among a group of protesters at the demonstration
in Ramallah when fighting broke out between the two sides.
Three days after Tillawi's death, Robert Ménard, the secretary
general of the French organization Reporters Without Borders,
wrote a letter of protest to Israeli defense minister Benyamin
Ben-Eliezer. In the letter, Ménard criticized the Israeli military
for behaving as if it had "almost total immunity" in Ramallah
and elsewhere and reminded Ben-Eliezer of the government's responsibility
under the "Geneva Conventions to protect civilians, which include
journalists." Ménard recounted 46 cases of journalists being
fired upon and wounded since the start of the current intifada
in September 2000, nearly all of those attacks attributed to
the Israeli Defense Forces.
Tillawi was married, without children. He joined the Voice
of Palestine in 1997 and hosted two weekly news programs, International
Affairs and Nahar Jadid ("New Day").
APTN cameraman Nazeh Darwazeh, March 2003. Photo courtesy Said Shawqi Dahlah.
Nazeh Darwazeh, a 43-year-old cameraman for Associated Press
Television News (APTN), was shot in the head on April 19, 2003,
while on assignment. Eyewitness reports and footage of the attack
suggest that the Palestinian cameraman was shot by an Israeli
Darwazeh had been hired as a cameraman for Palestine TV (an
official media outlet of the Palestinian Authority, based in
Gaza and Ramallah) after apprenticing for four years at a family-owned
photo studio. He joined APTN shortly after the outbreak of the
current intifada in September 2000 and had been working for
the internationally renowned news agency for roughly two years
when he was killedf.
While still in his teens, Darwazeh's political activism as
well as his PLO affiliations already had landed him in trouble
with Israeli and Jordanian authorities. The Jordanian government
arrested and sentenced him to serve more than seven years in
a Jordanian prison for his left-leaning political activities.
On the day he died, Darwazeh was filming a violent confrontation
between Palestinians and the Israeli military in the West Bank
town of Nablus. Published reports indicate that dozens of Palestinian
militants began throwing stones and firebombs. The reports claim
that Palestinians also opened fire at Israeli armored personnel
carriers and soldiers.
Several Palestinian cameramen and photographers, including
Darwazeh, had been filming an armored personnel carrier stuck
at the top of a flight of stairs in a narrow alleyway. The armored
vehicle was under stone-throwing attack when further trouble
broke out. Footage from Hassan Titi, a cameraman from Reuters,
shows an Israeli soldier crouching by the stranded armored personnel
carrier, taking aim with his rifle and firing in the direction
of Titi and Darwazeh. Moments later Darwazeh lay dead.
Major Sharon Feingold, spokesperson for the IDF, said that
Darwazeh and other members of the media had entered a crowd
of Palestinian militants who were, in turn, wielding explosives
and firing guns.
Journalists filming alongside Darwazeh in the alley say that
they were wearing bullet-proof vests marked "Press." Sami al-Assi,
a local Nablus cameraman who also covered the clashes, told the Associated Press, "The Israelis shot him [Dawarzeh] and aimed specifically
According to the Associated Press, 4,000 people turned out
for Darwazeh's funeral procession through Nablus. Nigel Baker,
director of content for APTN, described Darwazeh as "a courageous
cameraman who worked fearlessly to ensure that events in Nablus
were reported internationally." Baker appealed to the Israelis
for a "full and speedy inquiry ... to ensure that the cause of
this needless death is established."
Nazeh Darwazeh leaves behind his wife of 12 years, Naela,
and their five children, ranging in age from 4 months to 11
Photo of James Miller (left), Cassian Harrison and Saira Shah, taken December 2000 in Afghanistan during the filming of Beneath the Veil. Photo courtesy Saira Shah.
James Miller, a 34-year-old British cameraman and documentary
filmmaker, was fatally shot by the Israeli Defense Forces in
Rafah, a town in the Gaza Strip, on May 2, 2003. Miller and his crew had
been working there on a documentary for HBO about the impact
of terrorism upon children.
Miller was perhaps best known for his work on the 2001 documentary
Beneath the Veil, for which he teamed up with reporter
Saira Shah and producer Cassian Harrison. The film portrayed
life in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. It won many awards, including
an Emmy, a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
award and two Royal Television Society awards, for Program of
the Year and Outstanding Photography. He never shied away from
filming difficult subjects in regions scarred by strife and
war, such as Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Chechnya and Afghanistan.
On the day he died, Miller and his crew had been filming the
demolition of a Palestinian home. The IDF had been demolishing
homes that they claimed contained tunnels used to smuggle weapons
from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. After they'd finished filming the demolition
of a home late that evening, the Miller crew attempted to leave
APTN footage shows Miller and his crew emerging from the Palestinian
home in which they'd been filming and approaching an armored
Israeli bulldozer. They could be seen waving a white flag and
could be heard identifying themselves, in English and Arabic,
as journalists. In addition, Miller and his crew were wearing
clothing that identified them as members of the press. Eyewitnesses claim Miller and his crew were fired upon, without warning, as they approached
the armored bulldozer while attempting to identify themselves as journalists. Moments later,
Miller lay on the ground. APTN footage of the incident backs
up the eyewitness accounts. James Miller died from a gunshot
wound to the neck.
Israeli army spokesperson Captain Jacob Dallal told the Israeli
newspaper Ha'aretz: "Our forces (had) found a tunnel at
the house in question when an antitank missile was fired at
them. They shot back at the source of the attack. ... James Miller
was apparently hit during that exchange. The Israeli military
expresses sorrow at a civilian death, but it must be stressed
that a cameraman who knowingly enters a combat zone, especially
at night, endangers himself."
Daniel Seaman, the director of the Government Press Office
in Israel, told the Associated Press, "It's a split-second judgment,
whether or not to shoot. I prefer that in situations like that,
they shoot, because I prefer that there will not be a dead soldier."
On May 9, 2003, the IDF announced that all foreign nationals,
including journalists and humanitarian workers, would have to
sign waivers before entering Gaza. The waivers absolve the Israeli
military from any responsibility should foreign nationals in
Gaza be killed or wounded by the military. British foreign secretary
Jack Straw condemned the introduction of the waiver, calling
Miller's death raised bitter protest from his colleagues.
Cassian Harrison wrote in the U.K. paper The Guardian
that Miller "was a man of talent, intelligence and integrity"
who ranked as "one of the finest cameramen of his generation."
Harrison called for a thorough investigation. David Henshaw,
another colleague, wrote, "Miller was brave in the field, but
he was also highly responsible. (He) was no psyched-up bullet-chaser,
but (rather) someone who knew the risks and was sensible in
James Miller is survived by his parents, his wife, Sophie,
and their children, 2-year-old Alexander and 5-month-old Charlotte.
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Sheraz Sadiq is the FRONTLINE/World associate producer.
Editor's note: This page was slightly modified on June 4, 2003.