ikram Dodd / The Guardian & Ibrahim Barzak / Associated Press – 2006-04-05 09:03:16
Family of Shot Journalist Accuse Israel
Vikram Dodd / The Guardian
(April 4, 2006) — The family of a British cameraman shot dead by an Israeli soldier claimed yesterday that both the Foreign Office and the Israeli authorities had obstructed their search for justice. James Miller, 34, was killed by a single shot while making a documentary in the Gaza strip about Palestinian children.
At an inquest opening yesterday in London, TV producer Daniel Edge told how he was with Mr Miller on May 2 2003, and described his desperate attempts to save the cameraman. The four-strong TV crew were on their final day of filming.
Clutching a white flag with a torch shone on to it, they had approached the Israeli soldiers, calling out: “Hello, we’re British journalists.” Shots were fired, and Mr Miller fell, fatally wounded. Mr Edge told the inquest how he had begged the soldiers for help for his friend.
The jury of five women and five men heard that Mr Miller, reporter Saira Shah, and interpreter Abdul Rahman Abdullah were fired upon as they approached the soldiers on foot to ask to leave the dangerous area where they had been filming.
They had spent 16 days in the Gaza Strip on a documentary for US network HBO about Palestinian children in the Rafah refugee camp. It had been the first visit to Palestine for Mr Miller, who came from Braunton in Devon.
On the night, the crew left their equipment in a nearby Palestinian house as the trio walked, in flak jackets and helmets, towards members of the Israeli Defence Force in their armoured personnel carrier, or APC. Mr Edge, from Badby, Northamptonshire, was standing yards away, on the house veranda.
Mr Miller was shining a torch on to a white flag held by Mr Abdullah when the IDF opened fire. On the second shot, Mr Miller was hit in the front of his neck; fragments of bullet were later found embedded in his blue flak jacket.
In an emotional state giving evidence at St Pancras coroner’s court, Mr Edge said: “I heard Abdul shouting, it seemed he was crying in pain – I thought he had been shot in the arms or legs. I heard Saira shouting ‘He’s injured, he’s injured, please don’t shoot’. And then I heard Abdul shouting ‘He’s injured’. It was at that point I realised James had been shot, possibly badly injured, because he was silent.”
Following the death, the Miller family were determined any local postmortem should be attended by an independent expert, such as a Home Office pathologist. In written evidence one of Mr Miller’s sisters alleged the British ambassador, Sherrard Cowper-Coles, told her it would be a waste of money to have a British pathologist — even though the family wanted to ascertain the nature of the wound, and gather other forensic evidence.
According to a contemporaneous note of the phone conversation made by Anne Waddington, a barrister, he was dismissive: “I asked what was his reluctance … He said it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Mrs Waddington, whose father-in-law is the former Tory home secretary David Waddington, told the inquest another British official, Piers Cazalet, also asked the family to drop the demand : “He told me it would be obstructive and cause a delay [if I protested].”
She went on: “There was extreme pressure on us, and on Sophy [Mr Miller’s widow], within hours of her husband being killed, to agree to a postmortem without any independent observer.” Mrs Miller told the jury Israel had tried to “grind down” the family with delays and broken promises “in the hope that we wouldn’t go on”.
In court Mrs Miller named the soldier she believed killed her husband as a first lieutenant who fired from the APC 100 metres away from Mr Miller.
Israeli Air Force Fires Missiles at
Palestinian Leader’s Gaza Compound
Ibrahim Barzak / Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (April 4, 2006) — Israeli war planes on Tuesday fired three missiles into the Gaza compound of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in response to Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel, the first such Israeli attack since the violent Islamic Hamas took power last week.
The site was largely abandoned, and the army gave no explanation for hitting the compound of the moderate leader, who was in the West Bank at the time. The missile strikes at the compound, hit often by Israeli air strikes in previous years, dug deep craters and wounded two police officers. Abbas’ office is about 100 metres from the targeted security compound.
Since Hamas took control of the cabinet last week, Israeli officials said they would shun the Palestinian Authority but would continue to work with Abbas, who was elected separately last year. The attack Tuesday did not appear aimed at Abbas, either directly or indirectly.
Israeli security officials have been saying that Israel needs to send clear messages to Hamas that it must halt attacks, and Israel pledged to intensify its military strikes after Gaza militants fired a Katyusha rocket at Israel last week for the first time.
Abbas, who was elected separately a year ago, denounced the air strike and called for international intervention to stop what he called Israel’s “destruction for the sake of destruction.” He said he contacted “the UN, Russia, the EU and Arab states and told them that these actions complicate daily life and affect our human and social status.”
Asked about the possibility that Israel targeted a Palestinian security force that is under Hamas authority, Abbas replied that who is in charge of the various forces is none of Israel’s business. “It is internal business,” he said. and Israel “doesn’t have the right to interfere.” Abbas controls some of the armed units, and the rest are in the purview of the new interior minister, Said Siyam of Hamas.
Israel and Hamas are sworn enemies. Israel, along with the U.S. and European Union, labels Hamas a terror group for sending dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, while Hamas does not accept the presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.
While Hamas does not appear to be directly responsible for the rocket attacks, its leaders have said that militants who attack Israel will not be arrested, justifying a deadly suicide bombing at a West Bank settlement last week as legitimate resistance against Israeli occupation.
Israeli tanks also shelled the northern Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and wounding seven, including a mother and her six-month-old baby, Palestinian security and rescue officials said.
The Israeli army said it launched shells at empty fields in northern Gaza to deter militants from launching homemade rockets into Israel. Earlier Tuesday, militants fired several rockets, causing no injuries. Such barrages take place almost daily.
The Israeli missile attack in Gaza City came shortly after a Chinese envoy met Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, becoming the first foreign diplomat to do so since the Hamas government was sworn in.
Zahar, a Hamas leader, said he plans to visit China next month for a conference and was told a Palestinian delegation would be welcomed. It would be the first trip abroad by Zahar since he took office.
Also Tuesday, Israel’s new governing coalition started taking shape when the moderate Labour party said it would join Kadima, led by acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Labour flirted briefly with trying to set up a government of its own but abandoned the idea for lack of support.
A Kadima-Labour coalition would be committed to Olmert’s plan to set Israel’s borders, unilaterally if necessary, by 2010, withdrawing from large parts of the West Bank.
Final results from last week’s election gave Kadima 29 seats and Labour 19 in the 120-seat parliament, requiring them to bring in additional parties to secure a majority. Coalition talks are expected to take several weeks.
Olmert was named acting premier on Jan. 4, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was felled by a stroke.
Sharon, who remains in a coma, was to undergo surgery Tuesday to restore part of his skull, removed during brain surgery to stop bleeding from the stroke. But doctors had to postpone the operation when they found that he had a minor respiratory infection, the hospital said.
The surgery is seen as a step toward moving Sharon, 78, to a long-term care facility. He is not expected to recover.
© The Canadian Press, 2006
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.