Italian Reporter Apologizes to PA For Lynch Footage

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - An Italian journalist has apologized to the Palestinian Authority for taking pictures of the Palestinian mob as it beat to death two Israeli reserve soldiers last week.

Israel reacted with uneasy concern Wednesday to the apology published on the front page of the official PA newspaper Al Hayat Al Jedida. The retraction, written by Ricardo Christiano, the official representative of state Italian television (RAI) in Israel, said he had an "obligation to clarify...the circumstances regarding the filming of the events."

The letter emphasized more than once that it was a "rival Italian TV station" which filmed the events and not the official Italian station and that it was transmitted by Israeli television.

"We abide by the correct media working procedures with the PA and we perform our work assured that this is not the way that we conduct our matters and that we never carried out such an act," Christiano wrote.

Israel responded to the letter by temporarily suspending the press credentials of the Italian reporter and asking him to explain his letter.

Christiano said the letter was not an apology, but, rather an explanation.

The Israeli government said in a statement, that Christiano's declaration that he works according to the PA's rules, "implies that he will never again film events, which are liable to cast a negative light on the PA, such as the recent lynching of [Israeli] reservists in Ramallah."

The fact that he blamed his competitors means he is accusing other foreign journalists, said a statement from the Government Press Office explaining why his credentials had been revoked.

"All that we ask from foreign journalists is that they abide by the rules of press ethics as is accepted in democratic societies," the statement said.

RAI recalled Christiano from his post in Jerusalem. In a letter sent to Israel, RAI said it had "no knowledge of this letter and its content" and did not agree with it.

The Italian footage, taken October 12, showed the body of a reserve soldier being tossed from a second story window to a waiting and angry mob below, which continued to beat the body.

A copy of the footage was obtained by the Israeli government from RAI shortly after the incident.

Other networks in Ramallah that day had their videos confiscated and unconfirmed reports have indicated that at least one journalist was beaten by the crowd because he was thought to be Jewish.

Meanwhile, Israel radio reported Wednesday that Israel had arrested eight of those suspected of being involved in the lynch, in which two Israeli soldiers who were taken by Palestinian police to the heart of PA-controlled Ramallah, fell into the hands of a mob, which killed them and then mutilated and burned their bodies beyond recognition.

According to the radio report, the eight were arrested in an undercover operation. Among those captured, the report said, was a man who appeared on front page photos around the world with his bloody hands raised in triumph after the murder had been committed.

PA sources denied the report, saying it was intended to scare Palestinians.

Israeli sources refused to comment on the report but said that Israel would punish those who had committed the crime.