Police: Terrorist used foreign press as cover to get to troops

“This is not the first time Palestinian terrorists used the media as cover to carry out attacks."

December 18, 2017 16:58
2 minute read.
Mohammed Aqal seen with group of foreign journalists before carrying out stabbing attack

Mohammed Aqal seen with group of foreign journalists before carrying out stabbing attack which wounded a border police officer. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

The Palestinian man who stabbed a Border Police officer near Ramallah on Friday exploited nearby journalists as cover to get close to troops in order to carry out the attack, the Israel Police said on Sunday.

“From border police footage of the main area where the Foreign Press were covering the riots, the terrorist used the media as cover to prepare for the attack and managed to start running towards the officers from where the media was gathered and covering the incidents,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

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On Friday, 19-year-old Muhammad Aqal stabbed a border police officer twice in his shoulder during clashes before he was shot by security forces and evacuated by the Red Crescent in serious condition. He later died of his wounds, the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry said.

The Foreign Press Association told The Jerusalem Post that they condemn “attempts by any party to either disguise oneself as a journalist or exploit the presence of legitimate journalists to carry out a violent act.”

But, “this is not the first time Palestinian terrorists use the media as cover and carry out attacks,” the police statement added. Palestinian shot after stabbing Israeli Border Police officer near Ramallah, December 15, 2017. (YouTube/ אביגדור ט)

In 2015 a Palestinian man disguised as a journalist stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier near the West Bank city of Hebron. Video of the incident showed the 20-year old wearing a fluorescent yellow traffic vest and black t-shirt with the word “Press” on it.

That sort of outfit is similar to what many Palestinian journalists wear to distinguish themselves as members of the press during clashes with IDF troops. In the pictures released by the police on Sunday, Aqal who was not wearing such an outfit but a heavy black coat, is seen near two Palestinians wearing black shirts and fluorescent vests.

According to the Foreign Press Association, who condemned the 2015 incident, Aqal “did not identify himself as a journalist, was not dressed in the protective gear of nearby journalists, did not speak to the journalists and did not have any equipment that would mark him as a journalist.”

“It also should be noted that the photographers were in an area where forces had instructed them to stand and the assailant moved an estimated 30 to 40m. away from them when the stabbing occurred,” the FPA statement continued.

Aqal’s shooting, at a traffic circle in El-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, was caught on multiple cameras, some of which show him stabbing the officer and others showing border police shooting at him three times.

In the videos Aqal is seen waving a knife at officers before he is shot and falls to the ground where the coat he is wearing opens, revealing what resembles a suicide vest with several objects with wires attached to his waist.

“When the other officers saw the stabbing, they opened fire, which led to his incapacitation,” police said Friday. “When the troops approached the terrorist, they identified an explosive belt, which led to additional fire to prevent him from triggering it.”

The belt was later determined to be fake.

While the police on Sunday stated that there would be no changes to foreign media’s coverage of events in the West Bank “despite the dangers that Palestinian terrorists are causing to representatives of the foreign media,” the FPA said it “rejects any attempts by police to link this act of violence with the presence of accredited journalists doing their work.”

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