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Middle East & Israel Breaking News » Israel » Article

Ministries at odds over journalists' entry into Gaza

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The Foreign Press Association in Israel filed a Supreme Court petition on Monday seeking to overturn a government ban on journalists entering the Gaza Strip, as the Defense and Foreign ministries spar over the issue.

The court petition was filed after a letter, signed by the heads of the world's biggest news organizations and sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, failed to bring about a reversal of the ban. Since Kassam rockets began falling again on the western Negev in early November, crossings have been closed except for urgent medical cases and a handful of humanitarian aid workers .

The court petition sought an urgent hearing over the case.

A number of discussions on the matter have been held recently between Defense and Foreign ministry officials. The former have argued that opening the crossings to journalists would endanger the personnel who man them. The latter have argued that the story being reported abroad was less about Kassam rockets and more about banned journalists - something that has damaged Israel's case.

The Defense Ministry has deflected arguments that an exception should be made for journalists, saying that diplomats would then demand that the crossings be opened for them as well. The same would be true of various organizations.

"We understand that [the journalists] are upset," a senior defense official said, "but we will not risk the lives of soldiers by stationing them at crossings where they are targeted by Palestinian terrorists."

On Monday, the IDF facilitated the transfer of over 30 truckloads of food, basic supplies and medicine into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing. It was the largest supply convoy allowed to enter in some three weeks. In addition, the IDF transferred diesel fuel for Gaza's main power plant via the Nahal Oz crossing.

Defense officials said that the decision to temporarily reopen the crossings was made after a 24-hour period in which not a single Kassam rocket or mortar was fired into Israel.

"If the quiet continues, we will reopen the crossings completely, including for journalists," the official said.

AP contributed to this report.

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