The Sydney Morning Herald has confirmed that the two journalists reported to have been detained by Israel are safe, but remain in an Israeli prison after refusing to sign statements saying that they had entered the country illegally.
At a press conference this afternoon, the Herald's editor Peter Fray said that the paper had still not been able to gain direct contact with Paul McGeough or Kate Geraghty since Israeli commandos boarded their vessel - part of a flotilla organised by pro-Palestinian activists - and took them into detention.
He confirmed that the pair had been taken to the Israeli city of Ashdod before being moved to another facility in Beersheba, where they remain "safe and unharmed".
Fray said that McGeough, the Herald's chief foreign correspondent, and Geraghty, an experienced photojournalist, had been conditionally offered the opportunity to be deported immediately but had declined.
"We believe that when they got to Ashdod, they were given the option of being deported immediately. As part of that option, they were asked to sign a form that would state that they had entered Israel illegally.
"We understand that they did not sign that form and were overnight, Australian time, subsequently taken to another detention facility in Beersheba."
In expressing his concerns, Fray stated strongly the right of McGeough and Geraghty "to do their job" by reporting on the progress of the flotilla, which sought to break an Israeli-led naval blockade by delivering aid to the Gaza Strip.
"They were there, as I say, to bear witness: to bring the story of the flotilla to Australia and to the rest of the world.
"They had every right to do so. We ask that Israel respect their right: the right to do their job, the right of every journalist.
"We also ask for the return of their equipment and footage of the Israeli intervention on the flotilla."
The two journalists are among four Australians currently being held in detention as a result of their presence as part of the flotilla. Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, confirmed in Parliament today that a fifth Australian is being treated in hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound during the confrontation between activists and Israeli forces.
The press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB) says that at least fifteen foreign journalists were reporting from vessels in the flotilla. The organisation has called on Israel "to release the detained journalists and allow them unrestricted access to the Gaza Strip".
Media Spy discussion: Journalists detained in Israel