Hamas forces fail to arrest AFP journalist

Haniyeh officials persuaded gunmen to leave, calling incident a "misunderstanding".

johnston haniyeh 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
johnston haniyeh 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas militiamen tried to arrest a prominent Palestinian journalist late Saturday, but left the scene at the urging of Hamas political leaders after a group of reporters blocked the force from entering the man's home. The attempted arrest of Agence France Press reporter Sakher Abu El Oun came a day after Hamas beat a group of journalists covering a demonstration protesting the Islamic militant group's rule in the Gaza Strip. Abu El Oun, who heads the Gaza journalists' union, harshly criticized the Hamas crackdown. About 15 Hamas security men arrived at his home late Saturday, saying they had orders to arrest him. Abu El Oun called some colleagues, who rushed to the scene and formed a human chain around the home. Within minutes, officials from the office of deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas official in Gaza, arrived to end the standoff. The officials persuaded the militiamen to leave, calling the incident a "misunderstanding." "Everything has been settled and freedom of speech and journalism is respected," said Taher Nunu, a spokesman for Haniyeh. AFP did not immediately comment. Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after five days of fighting against Fatah. While publicly proclaiming its commitment to a free press, the Islamic militant group appears to be growing intolerant with the media, with harassment of reporters increasingly common. Earlier Saturday, about 40 Palestinian journalists in the West Bank held a demonstration to protest Hamas' latest crackdown on the media. Participants called for freedom of the press and urged Hamas to stop violence in Gaza. After Hamas' takeover in Gaza, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah dismissed Hamas from the government and formed a Cabinet based in the West Bank. Abbas' government has won widespread international support, while Hamas faces deep international isolation.