Armored vehicles that were given to foreign news agencies operating in the country with the authorization of the State of Israel, may be used by hostile groups to carry out terror attacks against Israel, Director of the Government Press Office Danny Seaman warned in a letter addressed to Shin Bet Head Yuval Diskin.
On August 27 an Israel Defense Forces helicopter hit an armored vehicle that belonged to the Reuters news agency in Gaza. According to Seaman, the incident illustrated the failures in overseeing the use of armored vehicles granted to the foreign media agencies with the permission of the State.
The vehicle's presence in Gaza in itself constituted a violation of its license terms, and moreover, the jeep was carrying only Palestinians – one with links to Hamas who was not a Reuters employee.
Licenses for armored vehicles are granted by the State to foreign news agencies in Israel for the purpose of carrying out journalistic missions in the West Bank and Gaza. The State has even agreed to extend the permits for more than the one year stipulated by the law, on the condition that the license holder is a foreign national and that he alone will drive the car.
"To the best of our knowledge, all of the vehicles' owners have been violating the conditions for a long time now, despite our requests. This is not the first time we are warning that these vehicles will be used by hostile agents to carry out a terror attack against Israel. The recent incident in Gaza only illustrates the danger," Seaman wrote the Shin Bet chief.
The Foreign Press Association said in response it wishes to strongly object to the report.
"In the letter Mr Seaman makes broad and unsupported claims about what he calls the foreign media’s misuse of imported armoured cars. The FPA feels sure that members with armoured vehicles use them exclusively to provide for the safety of their colleagues in hazardous environments. The FPA is not aware of any incidents in which such vehicles have fallen into the wrong hands or been used to facilitate acts of violence.
"The FPA is willing at any time to work towards a better system of administering the use of these vital vehicles, but is sure that the relevant authorities will also understand our professional and moral obligation to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues," the FPA said in a statement.