JERUSALEM — Israel's Defense Ministry apologized Monday for the treatment of a pregnant American news photographer who said she was strip searched and humiliated by Israeli soldiers during a security check.
Lynsey Addario, who was on assignment for the New York Times, had requested that she not be forced to go through an X-ray machine as she entered Israel from the Gaza Strip because of concerns for her unborn baby.
Instead, she wrote in a letter to the ministry, she was forced through the machine three times as soldiers "watched and laughed from above." She said she was then taken into a room where she was ordered by a female worker to strip down to her underwear.
In the Oct. 25 letter sent by the newspaper said Addario, a Pulitzer Prize winner who is based in India and has worked in more than 60 countries, had never been treated with "such blatant cruelty."
The ministry said an investigation found that the search followed procedures but noted that Addario's request to avoid the X-ray machine had not been properly relayed.
Addario said she made the request not to go through the X-ray machine before arriving at the crossing.
"We would like to apologize for this particular mishap in coordination and any trouble it may subsequently have caused to those involved," the statement said.
It said that security is tight on the border with Gaza "in order to prevent terror from targeting and reaching Israel's citizens."
The defense ministry has "decided to hone the procedure for foreign journalists," it said.
The New York Times bureau chief in Israel, Ethan Bronner, welcomed the planned changes but said the newspaper remains shocked at the treatment Addario received and how long the investigation took.
Foreign journalists working in Israel have repeatedly complained of overly intrusive security checks by of Israeli authorities. Israel says the inspections are necessary measures.
In March, Addario was among four reporters captured in Libya by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and held for six days. Another of the four, reporter Anthony Shadid, related later that they were bound with wire, blindfolded, hit with fists and rifle butts and threatened with death. Addario also was groped, he said.