JERUSALEM - An Italian photographer was killed by machine gun fire from an Israeli tank in Ramallah early Wednesday, Palestinian hospital officials and witnesses said. Two other journalists were also shot at in separate incidents in the West Bank town.
The Israeli army expressed regret over the death of Raffaele Ciriello, 42, but said its investigation had not yet determined the source of the gunfire.
Italian free-lance photographer Raffaele Ciriello, 42, poses with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Arafat's office in the West Bank town of Ramallah Tuesday March 12, 2002. Ciriello, on assignment for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was shot and killed by Israeli tank fire early Wednesday March 13, 2002. (AP Photo/Hussein Hussein)
Ciriello was the first foreign journalist killed since Israeli-Palestinian fighting broke out in September 2000. The free-lance photographer was on assignment for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera the employer of Maria Grazia Cutuli, a reporter killed with three other journalists in an ambush in Afghanistan in November.
A French photographer, whose identity was not immediately known, was shot twice in the legs, doctors and witnesses said. The army also expressed regret over that incident, though it noted that the source of the gunfire was not clear.
In the third incident in Ramallah, 35-year-old Egyptian TV correspondent Tareq Abdel Jaber said Israeli soldiers fired at least five shots at his car, clearly marked with big TV signs. Jaber said one bullet struck him in the right side, but was stopped by a flak jacket.
Reporters without Borders say 40 journalists have been wounded by gunfire since fighting began 18 months ago.
Marco Del Corona, a deputy news editor at Corriere della Sera, said Ciriello took pictures of "great quality" and was very experienced. He had worked in Iran and Lebanon in the past and had arrived in the Middle East on his latest assignment just a few days ago, Del Corona said. Italian news reports said Ciriello was married and had a daughter.
Fellow journalist Amedeo Ricucci said he and Ciriello were following Palestinian gunmen through the center of Ramallah at about 9:30 a.m. when an Israeli tank appeared from around the corner. He said soldiers on the tank fired a machine gun from about 150 yards without warning, striking Ciriello in the stomach.
Doctors said he was hit six times in the abdomen. Ricucci and another colleague, both of whom work for Italian television Rai Uno, were not hurt.
"Suddenly a tank appeared from a corner and it opened fire," Ricucci said. "There was no fighting in the area."
In an interview with Rai TV, Ricucci said in hindsight it appeared the Palestinian gunmen they saw earlier were signaling the arrival of the Israelis. He also added that after the burst of machine gunfire from the tank, he saw another armed Palestinian had come out from behind the corner.
An Israeli army spokesman, Lt. Col. Olivier Rafowicz, said it was not clear who killed the Italian photographer. "There has been cross fire for several days," Rafowicz said.
The environment in Ramallah for journalists has grown increasingly tense since Israeli forces took over the West Bank's commercial and administrative center early Tuesday, enforcing a curfew.
On Tuesday, Ciriello was among about 40 journalists in a Ramallah hotel that came under Israeli tank fire. No one was injured, and the army said it was returning fire from a gunman on the upper floors of the hotel. Journalists in the hotel at the time said there was no gunman.
The Foreign Press Association expressed shock at Wednesday's incidents and called on both sides in the conflict to ensure journalists' safety and freedom of movement.
"Journalists are the primary independent witnesses to this conflict," the association said in a statement. "They are in practically all cases easily identifiable as journalists. ... Extraordinary means are required by all sides to ensure that their safety and freedom of movement are not impaired."
Ciriello's Web site says he started covering war zones in 1992, and his portfolio includes work from Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. He often worked with Cutuli, the woman who was killed in Afghanistan.
© 2002 The Associated Press