FPA condemns alleged IDF assault on journalists

Reuters photographers say they were attacked, humiliated by IDF soldiers in Hebron; IDF says it is investigating.

Journalists cover a protest in Hebron 390 (photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
Journalists cover a protest in Hebron 390
(photo credit: Michael Omer-Man)
The Foreign Press Association (FPA) condemned on Friday an alleged assault of two Reuters photographers by IDF soldiers on Wednesday evening in Hebron.
The two cameramen were stopped while driving to the scene of a shooting in the city, in which a Palestinian teen was killed by a Border Police officer after he allegedly brandished a toy gun.
According to the Reuters photographers, the IDF soldiers punched the two cameramen and forced them to strip in the street, before letting off a tear gas canister in front of them, leaving one of them needing hospital treatment.
"Press freedom is the signal of a civilized nation. The assault and humiliation of reporters trying to do their work is unacceptable and falls far, far below the standards that the IDF says it adheres to," the FPA said in response.
An IDF spokesperson said on Thursday it took the allegations seriously, but offered no explanation for the assault.
"The regional brigade commander was ordered to open an investigation," IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said in an email. No further information will be provided until the investigation is complete.
Yousri Al Jamal and Ma'amoun Wazwaz said a foot patrol stopped them as they were driving to a nearby checkpoint where a Palestinian teenager had just been shot dead by a Border Patrol officer.
Their car was clearly marked 'TV' and they were both wearing blue flak jackets with 'Press' emblazoned on the front, the FPA and Reuters said.
The soldiers forced them to leave the vehicle and punched them, striking them with the butts of their guns. They accused them of working for B'Tselem, which documents human rights violations in the West Bank, the Reuters cameramen said.
Locals say B'Tselem has given a number of Palestinians video cameras so they can film soldiers and settlers who live in this divided city. The NGO was not immediately available for comment.
The soldiers did not let the men produce their official ID papers and forced them to strip down to their underwear, making them kneel on the road with their hands behind their heads, the cameramen said.
Two other Palestinian journalists working for local news organizations, including a satellite television station affiliated to the Islamist group Hamas, were also stopped and forced to the ground.
One of the soldiers then dropped a tear gas canister between the men and the IDF patrol ran away. The four journalists scrambled clear and Jamal and Wazwaz got to their car, which had rapidly filled up with tear gas, they said.
They tried to drive away, but said they only got around 200 meters before they had to stop and exit the vehicle because of the choking gas. The soldiers then allegedly fired more tear gas in their direction.
Wazwaz was overcome by the fumes and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He was released later the same night.
The IDF soldiers took two gas masks and a video camera from their car. The undamaged camera was later found abandoned further up the road, the journalists said.
"We deplore the mistreatment of our journalists and have registered our extreme dismay with the Israeli military authorities," said Stephen J. Adler, editor-in-chief of Reuters News.
Tensions have been running particularly high in Hebron in the past week following repeated clashes between stone-throwing youths and soldiers.