CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian

Violent protests erupted in parts of Jerusalem in mid-April, in response to the proposed eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, according to multiple news reports. Combined with reports of heavy handed policing of Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan–which began in mid-April–and the use of stun grenades and tear gas to control protest crowds inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, historic grievances have been reignited and since escalated into a larger conflict, news outlets reported.

Violent protests intensified in parts of Israel and the West Bank, and the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired over 1,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel so far, according to news reports. At least six people have been killed and hundreds injured in Israel as of May 12, according to Reuters. Protests have spread across Israel and the West Bank, and rockets have hit cities across Israel as far north as Haifa, according to reports. A state of emergency has been declared in the city of Lod, according to AFP.

The Israeli air force has in turn launched hundreds of air strikes at various targets in Gaza, hitting the cities of Gaza City, Khan Yunis, and Beit Hanoun so far, news media reported. At least 65 people have been killed and hundreds more injured as of May 12, according to news reports. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu stated May 10 that “the current conflict may last for some time.”

CPJ has documented at least eight cases of journalists injured covering the protests. In addition, the Al-Jawhara Tower in Gaza, which houses various media offices, was hit by an air strike, as was the Al-Shurouk Tower in Gaza, according to reports. The Al-Shorouk building housed at least seven media outlets, including the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds Today and the Palestinian National Authority-affiliated Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper, according to news reports, statements, and social media posts by the affected outlets and a person with knowledge of the attack who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

Media workers should be aware that the Erez land border crossing between Israel and Gaza is currently closed, according to Al-Jazeera, with foreign reporters prohibited from crossing, according to news reports citing a May 11 statement by Israel’s Ministry of Defense Crossing Points Authority. Approaching the border area should be considered high risk due to ongoing military activity and operations in the area, as reported by Al-Monitor. According to news reports, the Rafah border crossing with Egypt will be closed for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, from May 12 to May 16.

Physical safety during rocket attacks and air strikes

Media workers reporting from any location in Israel or Gaza should consider the dangers presented by air strikes and/or rocket attacks, as well as balloon-borne explosives. Such dangers can include (but are not limited to) falling debris, flying shrapnel, and shock waves from large explosions; dust inhalation; targeting of vehicles; and/or crowd stampedes.

  • Before traveling to any location, always check on the latest security situation with locals and/or other journalists who are/have been there. If possible, ask for updates at checkpoints along the way, and identify safe locations en route. Be aware of an ‘echo chamber’ effect that individuals spreading unsubstantiated information can create.
  • Identify likely/key targets in the area you are reporting from and keep a safe working distance from them. This could include government or military buildings, or residential tower blocks suspected of housing particular individuals.
  • Be aware of the dangers of reporting from the immediate aftermath of a rocket attack, air strike, or explosion, noting the dangers from a follow-up strike, secondary explosions from flammable materials, and/or collapsing buildings.
  • Study a map of the location you’re working in and locate the closest air raid shelter or bunker. Many buildings have some sort of basement and you will usually see locals running toward them. Otherwise you may need to use an alternative such as a subway station or tunnel. Be mindful of how far you are from shelter at any moment, especially when staying in an unfamiliar location overnight.
  • Consider how long it will take you to get to safety — noting that an air raid siren going off in Tel Aviv potentially affords you more time to seek shelter than an air raid siren going off in Ashkelon (due to geographic proximity to rocket launching sites in Gaza).
  • Avoid positioning yourself near windows or glass-fronted buildings, and note that walls could collapse or shock waves reverberate off them.
  • If caught out in the open with no hard cover close by during an air strike or rocket attack, find the lowest area of ground, such as a ditch or hollow, and lie down on your face. Protect your head with your arms, and adopt a protective fetal position.
  • Avoid hanging around key infrastructure targets (e.g. bridges) and/or crowded locations (e.g. transport hubs or popular restaurants).
  • Consider what personal protective equipment (PPE) is necessary to help protect you against blast shrapnel and debris, such as safety goggles, body vest, safety helmet, and a face mask (e.g. N95 or FFP2 grade) — noting the health risks associated with breathing in dust and other harmful particulates if buildings collapse. For more information see the CPJ’s PPE guide here.
  • Electricity supplies could be disrupted. Take a good quality flashlight and spare batteries with you, as well as a portable power bank to charge your equipment. Ensure that you charge your equipment at every opportunity.
  • Ensure you have some emergency provisions in a grab bag ready to go, such as drinking water, energy snacks, phone charger, and warm clothes.
  • Wear clothes that allow you to move swiftly. Footwear should have hard soles, laces, and some kind of ankle support, and clothes should not be loose/baggy in case they get caught on objects. Avoid wearing flammable materials such as nylon.
  • Ensure you have a check-in procedure with your base. If communications networks may be disrupted (either intentionally or as a result of conflict damage), consider a backup means of communication, such as a satellite phone. It’s important to note that the use of a satellite phone in Gaza may lead to suspicions of calling in an air strike, so they should only be used in an emergency or in an area where you are not being observed.
  • Some scenes you witness may be traumatic and upsetting. Consider the risk of emotional distress or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an issue that can affect even the most experienced and battle hardened war correspondents. For more information on understanding trauma, please refer to CPJ’s psychological safety note.

Physical safety at protest locations

Media workers reporting from any protest location should anticipate and be prepared for significant levels of violence on the ground, which could come from the security forces (e.g. the police or Israeli Defense Forces), protesters, ‘lone wolf’ attackers, and/or vigilante groups. Dangers may include (but are not limited to) the following:

Pre-assignment planning

  • Plan all journeys in advance — but be prepared to adapt your plans at short notice. Travel is likely to be affected with little or no warning due to security checkpoints and unrest, as witnessed in parts of Jerusalem.
  • Find out about any movement restrictions in place where you are reporting from, noting potential curfews and/or a state of emergency being declared, as seen in the city of Lod.
  • If staying at a hotel overnight, select a property a safe distance from potential flashpoints.
  • The use of protective safety goggles/glasses, helmets, body vests, and tear gas respirators should be considered at any violent protest location. For more information see the CPJ’s PPE guide here.
  • If there is a risk of live ammunition being…

Read More:CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian