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Israeli forces attack Palestinian journalists at World Press Freedom demo

May 3, 2016 7:08 P.M. (Updated: May 4, 2016 2:51 P.M.)
(MaanImages, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Three Palestinian journalists sustained minor injuries on Tuesday after Israeli forces attempted to suppress a sit-in with stun grenades and tear gas outside Israel’s Ofer detention center on World Press Freedom Day.

A group of Palestinian journalists used the occasion to direct attention to the plight of Palestinian journalists currently being held in Israeli custody as a result of Israel’s widely-condemned crackdown on Palestinian journalists since a wave of unrest erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory in October.

At least 43 Palestinian journalists have been detained by Israeli forces since October, and they have reported cases of torture, medical negligence, and unreasonable and illegal rulings by Israeli authorities, according to a recent report by the Committee to Support Palestinian Journalists.

Staging a sit-in outside the Ofer detention center, demonstrators raised posters of imprisoned Palestinian journalists and demanded the release of 20 who are currently being held in Israeli prisons.

Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades at the journalists, despite reports that the protest was peaceful, wounding Zahir Abu Hussein, Muhammad Shawasha, and Ali Ubeidat.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an they were looking into the reports.

Israel’s Ofer detention center, which is illegally located on privately-held Palestinian land near Ramallah in the central West Bank, has been the scene of protests in the last week over the arbitrary arrest of Omar Nazzal, a well-known Palestinian journalist currently held there.

Nazzal was detained on April 23 at the Allenby Bridge between the occupied West Bank and Jordan en route to a European Federation of Journalist conference in Bosnia.

On Monday, Israeli authorities extended Nazzal’s administrative detention for four months over his alleged involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel has declared a “terrorist” organization along with the majority of other Palestinian political parties.

Nazzal joins some 700 Palestinians being held by Israel under administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge.

In a statement released in March, Palestinian media freedoms group MADA said it was “highly concerned” by recent Israeli resolutions targeting Palestinian media, saying it neglected “the main reason for the whole conflict, which is the continuous occupation and all systematic violations against Palestinian people.”

The watchdog reported a total of 599 violation against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory over 2015, marking a 16 percent average increase from 2014.

Israeli authorities were also the target of criticism last month after reports surfaced of Israeli forces banning bulletproof vests from entering the Gaza Strip, jeopardizing the safety of Palestinian journalists in the besieged enclave who often experience missile and live firing by Israeli forces during clashes.

"Israel’s systematic assault on Palestinian journalists and media institutions is part of a broader campaign to instill fear and silence in an entire population,” Jamal Dajani of the Palestinian Prime Minister's Office said in a press release Tuesday.

“Today, freedom of expression has become grounds for arrest, under the Israeli pretext of incitement. Israel wants to stop Palestinians from reporting on Israeli human rights violations; Israel doesn’t want the world to know the real facts on the ground."

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