(Reuters) -Israel's military has told international news organisations Reuters and Agence France Presse that it cannot guarantee the safety of their journalists operating in the Gaza Strip, under Israeli bombardment and siege for almost three weeks.
Gaza, a Palestinian enclave run by the militant group Hamas, has been under bombardment since Oct. 7 when Hamas gunmen burst through the Gaza border into Israel and killed some 1,400 people. Gaza's health ministry says around 7,000 people have been killed by Israeli strikes.
The Israel Defense Forces wrote to Reuters and AFP this week after they had sought assurances that their journalists in Gaza would not be targeted by Israeli strikes.
"The IDF is targeting all Hamas military activity throughout Gaza," the IDF letter said, adding that Hamas deliberately put military operations "in the vicinity of journalists and civilians".
The IDF also noted that its high-intensity strikes on Hamas targets could cause damage to surrounding buildings and that Hamas rockets could also misfire and kill people inside Gaza.
"Under these circumstances, we cannot guarantee your employees' safety, and strongly urge you to take all necessary measures for their safety," the IDF letter concluded.
Hamas did not immediately comment when asked about the IDF’s allegation that it put military operations near where journalists in Gaza are known to be based.
Reuters could not verify how many other news organizations operating in Gaza had received the same letter from the IDF.
The IDF did not have any immediate comment.
Reuters and AFP said they were very concerned about the safety of journalists in Gaza.
“The situation on the ground is dire, and the IDF’s unwillingness to give assurances about the safety of our staff threatens their ability to deliver the news about this conflict without fear of being injured or killed," Reuters said in a statement in response to receiving the Israel military letter.
AFP Global News Director Phil Chetwynd said his news organisation had received the same letter.
"We are in an incredibly precarious position and it's important that the world understands that there is a large team of journalists working in extremely dangerous conditions," Chetwynd said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 27 journalists have been killed since the war began, mostly in Gaza but also in Israel and southern Lebanon.
A Reuters video journalist was killed and six other journalists injured in southern Lebanon on Oct. 13 when missiles fired from the direction of Israel struck them, according to a Reuters videographer who was at the scene.
As of Oct. 27, according to CPJ's latest update, 22 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese have been killed.
(Reporting by Mark Bendeich, editing by Edward Tobin)