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Israeli forces shoot, injure AP photographer during al-Ram clashes

Oct. 10, 2016 2:19 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 11, 2016 11:01 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces shot and lightly wounded an Associated Press photographer with a rubber-coated steel bullet while he was covering clashes in the occupied West Bank village of al-Ram on Sunday, the global news agency reported.

AP said that its photographer Majdi Muhammad was covering clashes in al-Ram, which erupted during a raid on the home of Misbah Abu Sbeih, a Palestinian who was shot and killed by Israeli police earlier in the day while carrying out a deadly drive-by shooting in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse Palestinian youth in the area, when Muhammad reported that one of the Israeli soldiers began cursing at him and ordering him to leave.

As Muhammad turned to leave, he was shot at close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet in a part of his back not covered by his ‘Press’ protective vest.

While the bullet did not break any bones, AP reported that Muhammad suffered from a “bloody welt” on his shoulder.

At least seven young Palestinian men were injured in the raid, including an unspecified number who were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets. In addition, one male and one female Israeli soldier were hit by stones hurled by locals, and were evacuated to a nearby hospital.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an on Monday that Israeli forces used “riot dispersal means,” including rubber-coated steel bullets, in al-Ram on Sunday, confirming that a number of people were injured during the clashes, including a photographer.

“According to initial investigations, it was determined that the photographer was injured by the riot dispersal means,” she stated, adding that the case was “under review.”

The Foreign Press Association in Israel (FPA) issued a statement on Monday condemning the incident.

“We have reason to believe that this shooting was intentional,” the statement read. “The border policeman who we believe fired the bullet had shouted and cursed at Majdi moments before the shooting.”

“Majdi’s vest clearly identified him as ‘press,’ and he was nowhere near the stone-throwing protesters who were clashing with the forces at the time,” the FPA added, calling the case “the latest in a string of attacks by Israeli border police on journalists.”

“Our repeated calls for Israel to uphold its commitment to honor press freedom and safety have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears,” the organization said. “We hope that Israel will finally conduct a serious investigation and take appropriate disciplinary action. Only when Israel begins to hold its security forces accountable for abusing journalists will this deplorable behavior change.”

Palestinian press freedoms watchdog MADA reported in August that Israeli violations against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory had continued to rise at a rapid pace over the first half of 2016.

The increase came even after the group reported an “unprecedented” increase in violations throughout 2015 -- “the highest ever to be monitored in Palestine” since the group started monitoring violations against media freedoms more than a decade ago.
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