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Italian journalist dies in Mideast

Ciriello: Pictures of "great quality"  

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- An Italian news photographer has been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank.

Raffaele Ciriello, a freelancer on assignment in Ramallah for the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, died after being shot six times in the chest Wednesday.

Two other journalists, one French and one Egyptian, were also reported to have been wounded while working in Ramallah.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding Ciriello's death but added that journalists entering the conflict zone did so at their own risk.

Ciriello died in a hail of bullets while following Palestinian gunmen through Ramallah.

Fellow journalist Amedeo Ricucci told The Associated Press that soldiers on a tank fired a machine gun from about 150 meters without warning.

"Suddenly a tank appeared from a corner and it opened fire," Ricucci said. "There was no fighting in the area."

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Ricucci and another colleague, both of whom work for Italian television Rai Uno, were not hurt.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed Ciriello's death. He had been taken to Ramallah's Arab Care Medical Hospital for surgery after being wounded.

Israeli troops have entered Ramallah as part of an operation to root out Palestinian militants, Israel says.

IDF spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Olivier Rafkowicz told Reuters news agency: "It is important to remember that there have been exchanges of fire in Ramallah, and that this was the reason the army closed off the area to journalists yesterday.

"When members of the press work independently in the field without first coordinating with the army, they endanger themselves. We would like to express our deep sorrow at the death of Mr. Ciriello."

Ciriello met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday
Ciriello met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday  

Marco Del Corona, a deputy news editor at Corriere della Sera, said Ciriello took pictures of "great quality" and was very experienced.

He had previously worked in Iran and Lebanon, Del Corona said. Italian news reports said Ciriello was married and had a daughter.

The Foreign Press Association expressed shock at Wednesday's incidents and called on both sides in the conflict to ensure journalists' safety and freedom of movement.

"Journalists are the primary independent witnesses to this conflict. They are in practically all cases easily identifiable as journalists," it said.

"Extraordinary means are required by all sides to ensure that their safety and freedom of movement are not impaired."

In Rome, the speaker of the lower house of the Italian parliament, Pier Ferdinando Casini, said as he opened Wednesday's session: "I believe that parliament can only be very close to the family of this photographer and once again raise a loud cry for peace in the Middle East."


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