JERUSALEM, Israel -- About 500 foreign journalists arrived in Israel over the weekend to cover Operation Pillar of Defense, the Government Press Office reported on Monday.
The GPO said the new arrivals are joining some 1,400 members of the media in the region to cover Israel and the Middle East.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein instructed GPO Director Nitzan Chen to process their press credentials as quickly as possible and arrange media tours to communities under threat of missile attacks, along with current data and information packets. He also instructed the GPO to allow the crews free access to the conflict zones.
Edelstein escorted a group of journalists to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon over the weekend.
"The manner of coverage and pictures that are sent to millions of viewers and readers around the world by foreign journalists also have great influence over what occurs on the battlefield," Edelstein said.
"I have instructed the GPO to make a maximum effort to receive journalists efficiently and organize press tours to the areas in the south that are being shelled. We are working so that alongside the photos of planes and tanks, there are the voices of the people who have been enduring a daily reality over the years that no other country would be prepared to accept," he said.
To accommodate the journalists, the GPO extended its business hours and added additional staff.
"The GPO has been working around the clock," Nitzan said. "After having seen a reduction in foreign media presence in recent years due to the relative quiet and events of the Arab spring, in recent days we have seen a genuine airlift."
Nitzan said a third of the journalists who arrived over the weekend came to supplement media crews already here. Approximately a third of them come from North American news agencies and a third from Europe, Nitzan said.