Journalists attacked in Nablus by Israeli soldiers

New York, April 26, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports that Israeli soldiers have attacked Palestinian journalists covering unrest in the West Bank city of Nablus on at least two occasions this month.

On April 17, soldiers fired at a group of cameramen and photographers covering an Israeli army raid on a house in the Old City of Nablus. Nasser Ishtayeh and Abdal Ruhman Khabeisa of The Associated Press, Jaffar Ishtayeh of Agence France-Presse, and Abdel Rahim Qusini and Hassan Titi of Reuters said they were filming the raid, and clashes between soldiers and stone-throwing youths, from a distance of about 500 yards (meters), beside an AP vehicle that was clearly marked “Press.” They were wearing phosphorus green vests labeled “Press.”

Titi placed a video camera on a stand three feet (1 meter) from the car. Israeli soldiers fired at the camera forcing the journalists back into the vehicle, which also came under fire. The Foreign Press Association in Israel (FPA) protested to the army on April 25 over the shooting.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Capt. Jacob Dallal said the army was taking the incident “very seriously” and investigating it.

Nasser Ishtayeh told CPJ that an Israeli army jeep tried to run him over along with other Palestinian journalists who were trying to cover an army action yesterday. The journalists were on a main road reporting on the eviction of families from a building during a military raid in the al-Makhfiyeh neighborhood of Nablus. A soldier threatened the journalists and sped toward them in a jeep, forcing them from the road.

On April 22, Reuters cameraman Ashraf Abu Shaweesh was hit by rubber bullets when filming clashes between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army in Nablus. Shaweesh, who was wearing a vest that identified him as a journalist, became involved in a verbal confrontation with a soldier. Later he was hit twice, in the leg and chest, by rubber bullets. The FPA said it viewed the incident with grave concern.

“We deplore these actions which endanger the lives of journalists and call on the IDF to credibly investigate these incidents, and ensure accountability,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Palestinian journalists in Nablus have endured harassment at the hands of Israeli soldiers that has prevented them from carrying out their professional duties.”

During both the periods of unrest known as the intifada, CPJ documented dozens of incidents in which journalists were assaulted, shot or killed by IDF gunfire. CPJ has decried the failure to investigate these incidents and hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, a situation that allows soldiers to continue to act with impunity.