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Apr 17, 2008 at 02:28pm IST

Reuters photojournalist killed in Gaza strikes

Gaza: A Reuters cameraman was killed in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in what appeared to be an Israeli military strike.

Fadel Shana, 23, was covering events in the enclave for the international news agency on a day of intense violence when 16 other Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were also killed.

Two youths passing by died in the same explosion that killed Shana, witnesses said. The cameraman had stepped from his car to film an Israeli tank dug in several hundred meters (yards) away.

Video from Shana's camera showed the tank opening fire. Two seconds after the shot raises dust around its gun, the tape goes blank - seemingly at the moment Shana was hit.

Reuters soundman Wafa Abu Mizyed, 25, sustained a shrapnel wound and was being treated in a Gaza hospital.

The Israeli army declined immediate comment on what caused Shana's death. It expressed sorrow but also said journalists were putting their lives at risk in areas of combat.

The Reuters vehicle was an unarmored sport utility vehicle bearing "TV" and "Press" markings. The blast on a country back road left the car shattered and ablaze. Shana's body amour had been partially torn off. Abu Mizyed had no recollection of the incident, which occurred in good light around 5 pm (1400 GMT).

An Israeli military spokeswoman, Major Avital Leibovich, said there had been clashes there throughout the day after the three Israeli troops had been killed overnight in the same area.

A military official said: "We wish to express sorrow for the death of the Palestinian cameraman... It should be emphasized that the area in which the cameraman was hurt is an area in which ongoing fighting against armed, extreme and dangerous terrorist organizations occurs on a daily basis."

"The presence of media, photographers and other uninvolved individuals in areas of warfare is extremely dangerous and poses a threat to their lives."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman said: "In our operations we try to be as surgical as possible and make every effort not to see innocent people caught up in the fighting."

Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger called for an investigation: "This tragic incident shows the risks journalists take every day to report the news. All governments and organizations have a responsibility to take the utmost care to protect professionals trying to do their jobs," he said.

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The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders mourned Shana's death.

"We are asking the Israeli authorities to publicly commit to carrying out an exhaustive investigation into this incident and to make its findings public," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon in a statement.

Shana, who had worked for Reuters in Gaza for more than three years, was wounded in 2006 when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a Reuters vehicle. That car also carried markings showing it was operated by the media organization.

Shana, who was unmarried, was a gentle and popular figure among the 15-strong Reuters news team in the Gaza Strip. The bureau was honored by Britain's Royal Television Society for its coverage of last year's factional fighting in Gaza.

Hundreds of journalists and well-wishers flocked to the hospital where Shana's body was taken. The family planned to hold a funeral on Thursday.

An Israeli soldier shot a Reuters photographer in the leg in Gaza in October. Two Reuters journalists were wounded by an Israeli tank shell in the enclave in 2003.

Also in 2003, one of the most widely renowned Palestinian journalists to work for Reuters, television cameraman Mazen Dana, was shot dead by a U.S. soldier in Baghdad. Six other Reuters journalists have been killed in that conflict.

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