Israel Threatens Action Against Journalists

Israel revoked the credentials of two Abu Dhabi TV journalists on Tuesday and threatened legal action against CNN and NBC for ignoring military orders and broadcasting from the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

A statement from the Government Press Office said the press cards of journalists Leileh Odeh and Bassam Azawi were canceled after Abu Dhabi Television broadcast a story on March 31 alleging that Israeli troops executed a group of young men in Ramallah.

The satellite channel's staff "have for some time operated crude anti-Israel propaganda and have been taking a hostile and combative attitude, creating uproar in the Arab world," the statement said, adding that the station showed "utter disregard" for Israeli military censorship rules.

Abu Dhabi Television staff could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Israel and the Palestinians have offered contradictory accounts of how the men in Ramallah died Saturday.

The Palestinians say a group of 22 Palestinian policemen, seeking to surrender during intense gunbattles in the city, followed Israeli orders to strip to their underwear and lay down their weapons. As they walked out of the building where they had taken refuge, soldiers opened fire, killing five men, Palestinians said.

The military says troops entered the building in search of Palestinian militants and immediately came under fire. The soldiers shot back, killing some of the five outright and fatally wounding others. Four soldiers were wounded in the exchange, the army said.

The Government Press Office also said it had sent written complaints to CNN and NBC, whose correspondents continued broadcasting from Ramallah after Israel declared the city a closed military zone, off limits to journalists.

"If they do not stop violating Israeli law, the State of Israel will be compelled to take the steps to which it is obliged by law," the statement said, without elaborating.

NBC did not immediately return phone calls asking for its response, and CNN's Jerusalem bureau declined comment.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists on Tuesday criticized Israel for closing areas to the media. "We oppose this strategy, for it amounts to censorship and will be self-defeating," the group said in a statement. "Censorship will not bring peace but will only lead to more ignorance, rumor and fear."

The group also urged Palestinian media to avoid inflammatory reporting.

On Monday, Israeli forces expelled a CBS News television crew from Ramallah, a move that prompted a strong protest from the Foreign Press Association in Israel.

CBS veteran Dan Rather narrowly missed a suicide bomb attack on Monday when he and two producers drove past a checkpoint on the edge of Jerusalem where moments later a car bomb exploded, killing the attacker and a policeman. Hearing the explosion the CBS team doubled back to gather footage, a CBS spokesman said.

A few hours later he anchored the CBS evening news from Jerusalem. Rather will be in Israel for a few days, depending on the news, the network said.