The Foreign Press Association in Israel filed an appeal with the High Court on Monday demanding to be allowed into Gaza. Crossings between Gaza and Israel have been closed for several days due to rocket attacks on the western Negev, and journalists have not been allowed through.

Defense Ministry officials say only humanitarian workers will be allowed through the crossings while attacks continue. Journalists say the decision infringes on freedom of the press.

Heads of major media outlets worldwide recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asking him to allow journalists and television crews into Gaza. Among the signatories were senior journalists from ABC, CNN and BBC. Olmert has not yet responded to the letter.

Several journalists accused Israel of keeping the crossings closed in order to prevent journalists from reporting on the situation in Gaza. “This is Israel's policy to not show what's going on in Gaza,” one European reporter said.

Officials in the Foreign Ministry have warned that the issue is likely to tarnish Israel's image abroad. “The New York Times already published an article on the subject,” one told Maariv. He attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for refusing to open the crossings for journalists, saying, “Ehud Barak is putting a stick in the spokesmen's wheels for no clear reason.” Barak will then blame the Foreign Ministry when Israel's image is bad, he concluded.

Officials in Barak's office maintained that the crossings would remain closed until rocket fire stopped.