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Associated Press

Foreign Press in Israel Fight Gaza Entry Ban

Steve Weizman

JERUSALEM - International journalists based in Israel
appealed to the country's Supreme Court on Monday to overturn a
government decision barring foreign correspondents from entering the
Gaza Strip.

Foreign Press Association filed the court petition against the
military's Gaza commander, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Interior
Minister Meir Sheetrit after the government failed to heed a letter
signed by heads of the world's largest news organizations calling for
the ban to be lifted.

The court petition charged the media ban
constitutes "a grave and mortal blow against freedom of the press and
other basic rights and gives the unpleasant feeling that the state of
Israel has something to hide." It requested an urgent hearing.

Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association represents foreign
correspondents working in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

has long restricted movement across its border with Gaza, but it closed
the area to all but essential supplies on Nov. 5 after an upsurge in
Palestinian rocket fire. For the first time, that included a blanket
ban on foreign reporters entering the territory.

The government
routinely prevents Israeli journalists from entering Gaza because of
fears for their safety, but up to now foreign reporters had been
permitted in, even during times of heavy fighting.

Since the ban,
coverage in Gaza has been largely left to local Palestinian staff and a
handful of foreign journalists who entered before the ban took effect,
including two Associated Press reporters.

Israel's Defense Ministry says foreign journalists will be allowed in only once Gaza militants stop shooting.

letter protesting the ban, signed by The AP, Reuters, the New York
Times, the BBC, CNN and other major news organizations, was sent last
week to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In responding to the letter,
Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said Israel was displeased with
international media coverage, which he said inflated Palestinian
suffering and did not make clear that Israel's measures were in
response to Palestinian violence.

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