by Arnon Regular and Amos Harel | Haaretz | 3 May 2003
Israel Defense Forces troops demolishing a home suspected of concealing an arms-smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip shot dead a British television cameraman late Friday, military officials and Palestinian witnesses said.
James Miller, who was in the flashpoint refugee camp of Rafah making a documentary on how Palestinian children are affected by violence, was fired upon unprovoked, witnesses said. He died after being evacuated by Israeli forces for treatment.
"We got close to the area and filmed, but we couldn't leave because an (Israeli) tank was around 100 meters from where we stood," Abdel-Rahman Abdullah, a freelance Palestinian journalist who saw the night-time incident, told Reuters.
"We were very visible to the troops, with a white flag and 'TV' markings on our vests, but still the troops opened fire, hitting James Miller," he said.
The IDF denied troops targeted Miller, saying their operation was to uncover tunnels used by militants to smuggle in weapons from nearby Egypt for a 31-month-old armed uprising.
"Our forces found a tunnel at the house in question, when an anti-tank missile was fired at them. They shot back at the source of the attack," army spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal said.
"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," Dallal said.
Rafah sees frequent Israeli incursions against the tunnels - eliciting gunfire from Palestinian militants protecting them.
But Abdullah said there were no exchanges of fire on Friday night. "We even called out to the Israeli troops in their armored vehicles and could hear them talking inside, before they started shooting," he said.
A spokesman for the British embassy in Tel Aviv said he was aware of the incident but declined to give details.
Dozens of foreign journalists have been hurt while reporting on the Palestinian uprising for independence in Gaza and the West Bank, which erupted in September 2000.