Palestinian press photographers have always been targeted by the Israel Defence Forces and at least three have been arrested and two others have been physically attacked by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank since the start of April. “These incidents must stop,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The IDF must investigate them and punish the soldiers responsible.”
In the latest incident, an Israeli soldier fired a tear-gas grenade at Muammar Jamil Awad, a photographer with the Palestinian news agency Wafa, while he was covering the weekly protest in Beit Jala (a village 10 km south of Jerusalem) against the Israeli separation wall. He was taken directly to Jerusalem’s Sheari Tzedek hospital for treatment to a head injury.
An Israeli soldier arrested Najeh Al-Hashlamoun, a photographer with the ABA news agency, while he was covering clashes between Palestinians and IDF troops in Beit Omar, a village to the north of Hebron, on 24 April. Al-Hashlamoun was released 45 minutes later but his camera was confiscated. The clashes were prompted by the seizure of land belonging to Palestinians.
Muhib Al-Barghouti, a photographer with the newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, was detained by the IDF while covering the weekly demonstration against the separation wall in Bili’n (outside Ramallah) on 23 April. He was released at 8 a.m. the next day. During the demonstration, Agence France-Presse photographer Abbas Al-Moumni was injured as a result of a shot fired by an Israeli soldier.
Haytham Al-Khatib, a photographer for the Al-Lajna Al-Sha’biya (Popular League) website and the Friends of Freedom and Justice NGO, was arrested by the IDF while covering the weekly demonstration in Bili’n on 9 April. He told Reporters Without Borders: “They took me to a military camp and hit me while my hands were handcuffed behind my back. I was released at about midnight.”
The IDF also prevented several Palestinian photographers and cameramen from covering clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers in Beit Awa (a village near Hebron) on 26 April following an IDF raid on the home of a member of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
The IDF is still on the Reporters Without Borders list of Predators of Press Freedom, an updated version of which was released on 3 May. At least 33 Palestinian journalists were physically attacked and injured by Israeli soldiers during 2009 and more than 30 have been since the start of 2010.