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Court orders Israel to let foreign reporters enter Gaza

Posted at | Updated as of 01/03/09 5:54 AM

JERUSALEM - Israel's Supreme Court on Friday ordered the state to allow foreign reporters into the Gaza Strip, but no journalists went amid disagreement between a foreign press group and the authorities.

Israel's defence ministry sealed off Gaza when it launched an air offensive last Saturday.

The Foreign Press Association for Israel and the Palestinian territories, which launched a petition, said the court ordered the state to allow a first group of eight journalists into the Hamas-ruled territory.

But no reporters went in on Friday after the FPA objected to a government demand that authorities choose two of the eight reporters allowed to go in. The FPA said it was "dismayed" by the demand.

The court ruled reporters should be allowed to enter in groups of eight to 12 in the future, an FPA statement said.

Israel banned journalists from entering Gaza after it launched its massive air offensive, limiting coverage inside the enclaved territory to local journalists and photographers.

The FPA, which represents resident journalists of all foreign media including AFP, welcomed the decision to allow in the foreign press, but also called for the permanent opening of the crossings into Gaza to reporters.

"We believe the Israeli government should ensure unfettered access for the world's media to Gaza during this crisis," it said.

A senior Israeli minister criticised the decision, saying Israel had the right to prevent reporters from "exposing the world to terrorist propaganda."

"We must not allow international press to open a public relations office for terrorists," Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai said in a statement.