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Journalist killed covering Gaza clash

Cameraman was honored for Afghanistan documentaries

From Kelly Wallace

Cameraman James Miller was killed covering a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.
Cameraman James Miller was killed covering a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli military said Saturday that James Miller, a British cameraman, was killed while covering a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Gaza.

The Palestinian National Authority, in a statement, accused Israeli forces of committing "another brutal crime," charging Miller was "targeted and killed in cold blood, by the fire of the Israeli tanks."

The Israel Defense Forces said it "absolutely rejects" the charge that Miller was knowingly targeted, adding that Israeli forces did not use tank fire in the incident.

"This was an operation taking place at night, in which the [Israeli] force was under fire and in which the force returned fire with light weapons," an Israeli military spokesman said.

Miller is best known for his work on two documentaries he and his partner, correspondent Saira Shah, made on Afghanistan for CNN and the British network Channel Four in 2001.

The programs -- "Beneath the Veil" and "Unholy War" -- followed Shah as she journeyed to her Afghan homeland to expose the harsh rule of the Taliban government.

The programs won dozens of awards for news and documentaries in Britain and the United States -- including a Peabody, an Emmy and a BAFTA for best documentary.

The IDF said an investigation is under way to determine whether Miller died as a result of Israeli or Palestinian gunfire, with a spokesman saying it is "very possible" the fatal shot came from Israeli soldiers.

Miller was struck by one bullet, an Israeli military source said.

"The IDF expresses sorrow at the death of the cameraman who entered a combat zone," a spokesman said. "Cameramen who knowingly enter a combat zone endanger themselves as well as the troops, and clearly run the risk of being caught in the crossfire."

The IDF said its troops were uncovering a tunnel Friday near the Israeli-Egyptian border that had been used to smuggle weapons when they came under antitank missile and light-weapons fire from Palestinian gunmen.

When Israeli troops returned fire, Miller was hit in the crossfire and killed, an IDF spokesman said.

On Saturday, Israeli troops detonated the tunnel, which the spokesman said was a conduit of weapons into Gaza from Egypt.

During the operation, Israeli forces came under fire from Palestinians, who threw hand grenades and Molotov cocktails, the spokesman added

In a statement, the Palestinian National Authority's office in Rafah, where Friday's shooting incident occurred, said Miller was covering the demolition of a Palestinian family's home by Israeli tanks and bulldozers when "heavy shooting" erupted from the Israeli side.

The Israeli military spokesman said that, as the clash was ending, Israeli troops heard screams and spotted a woman standing next to a man who was lying on the ground.

Israeli forces took the man to a nearby Israeli military outpost where they gave him medical treatment, the spokesman said.

Miller died before an Israeli army medical helicopter arrived, the spokesman said.

Second journalist killed in two weeks

Almost two weeks ago, a Palestinian cameraman was killed covering a clash between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians and stone-throwing youths in Nablus, on the West Bank. During that clash, witnesses accused an Israeli soldier of targeting the cameraman and shooting at him.

The IDF rejected that charge, saying the cameraman was standing in a place where armed Palestinians were also hiding.

That cameraman, who normally worked for Palestinian Television, was freelancing for Associated Press Television News the day of the shooting, April 19.

The Palestinian Authority also condemned what it said was the Israelis' recent targeting of international peace activists, calling on "all the international peace and human rights organizations to intervene, protecting the Palestinian people as well as journalists and foreign people in the area.

"It is an urgent appeal to press the Israeli government to respect the principles of human rights and journalists' rights," the statement said.

The International Solidarity Movement has said two of its activists were targeted by Israeli forces, including an American woman who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in mid-March as she stood in front of a home that Israeli forces were preparing to demolish.

The ISM said the bulldozer operator paid no attention to Rachel Corrie as she waved her arms and yelled at him to stop. Other witnesses said Corrie had scaled a pile of dirt, lost her footing and fell out of sight of the bulldozer operator.

Another ISM activist remains in a coma after being shot by Israeli forces in the area about two weeks ago, according to a spokesman with the organization.

An Israeli official told CNN on Friday that the IDF has implemented a policy to "crack down" on pro-Palestinian peace activists, stepping up the detention and possibly the deportation of those activists whom it believes are breaking the law and assisting terrorist groups.

The Israeli government has long argued that some peace activists help terrorist networks and that others endanger their lives and the lives of IDF troops when they act as "human shields" during military operations.

-- CNN correspondent Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem and producer Talal Abu Rahma in Gaza City contributed to this report.

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