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PA information ministry denounces Israel's targeting of journalists at protests

July 22, 2017 6:25 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 23, 2017 10:36 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Ministry of Information accused Israeli forces of attempting to conceal its acts of “terrorism and suppression” on Palestinians, by targeting journalists who were attempting to cover Israeli forces’ violent assaults on unarmed Palestinian demonstrators on Friday.

Thousands had gathered across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip to pray outdoors in solidarity with a massive protest in occupied East Jerusalem against increasing Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Over 450 Palestinians were injured after the non-violent demonstrations erupted into clashes.

As Israeli forces suppressed some 300 protesters in the city of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank with skunk water, tear gas, and rubber-coated bullets, dozens were injured, including Ma’an TV correspondent Mirna al-Atrash, who was hit was a tear gas canister and lightly injured in the face, the ministry’s statement highlighted.

Ma’an journalist Muhammad Lahham was also among a number of other journalists at the protest in Bethlehem who suffered from tear gas inhalation.

The information ministry’s statement said that two photographers for official Palestinian news agency Wafa were injured: Afif Amira was shot by a rubber-coated steel bullet in the chest while covering the Jerusalem clashes, and Mashhour Wahwah was hit by a sound bomb in the foot while covering the clashes in Hebron.

Meanwhile, a number of Israeli and foreign journalists reported that Israeli police had forcibly removed them from certain areas of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The information ministry’s statement said the attacks “prove that Palestinian journalists need international protection from an occupation that violates all laws and conventions.”

The ministry said it “saluted Palestinian journalists, especially those working in Jerusalem, who did their best in conveying the Palestinian liberation narrative, despite the occupation’s suppression and brutality.”

The ministry urged the International Federation of Journalists and journalists’ syndicates worldwide to intervene to protect Palestinian journalists from Israel’s “brutality” and hold the Israeli government accountable for its crimes.

The statement also called upon the United Nations Security Council to apply Resolution 2222 that underscored the urgency and importance of the protection of journalists and condemned all abuses and violations committed against journalists.

At least two journalists were injured when Israeli police broke up previous protests in Jerusalem on July 18, according to local press freedom group Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA).

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reacted in a statement calling on Israeli authorities to ensure that journalists are able to cover protests and unrest safely.

"Covering a demonstration should not be a dangerous assignment for journalists," the statement quoted CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour as saying. "We call on Israeli police officials to investigate the assaults and ensure that all journalists can cover unrest safely and without fear of reprisal."
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