New York, February 27, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) arrest of a local television director and harassment of several journalists during a military operation in the West Bank city of Nablus.
At around 3:00 a.m. on February 26, Israeli soldiers detained Nabegh Break, owner and managing director of the local Sanabel TV, after raiding his home in Nablus’ Old City, an eyewitness told CPJ. When the troops arrived at Break’s apartment, they ordered his family to leave and took Break to the first floor, which houses Sanabel TV’s office. After about two hours of questioning, the soldiers seized computers and other equipment and left with Break, the eyewitness said. Break was taken to Israel’s Hawara detention center south of Nablus where he remains held without charge, according to CPJ sources.
“We are troubled by the raid of the Sanabel TV offices and the detention of Nabegh Break, who is being held without charge,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The Israeli army should release him immediately.”
Sanabel TV is an independent television station established in 1995 and airs local programming, including news.
Break’s detention took place as IDF troops searched door-to-door for wanted Palestinian militants. During the incursion in Nablus, Israeli forces prevented journalists from covering the situation, firing stun grenades and teargas at them, and roughing them up, some of the journalists told CPJ. A group of around 12 photographers and cameramen, including Nasser Ishtayeh and Emilio Morenatti of The Associated Press and Jaffar Ishtayeh of Agence France-Presse, were prevented at the entrance to the Old City of Nablus from covering Israel’s search and seizure operation on Monday.
Israeli soldiers fired several stun grenades as well as teargas and smoke bombs within a few meters of the journalists, forcing them to leave, the journalists told CPJ. Israeli soldiers on loudspeakers told the group of journalists that they were in a closed military zone. About 45 minutes later, Morenatti told CPJ that he complained to the soldiers of his treatment and they attempted to handcuff him, but his colleagues intervened on his behalf.
On Sunday, Omar Mohammad Afaneh, a broadcaster for the privately-owned local television station Asia TV, told CPJ that he was roughed up by Israeli soldiers while conducting an interview with Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, the head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Nablus, about the health effects of Israel’s curfew on the city.
Afaneh was ordered to turn off the camera but he refused. Several soldiers began pushing him, ripped his jacket, and an Israeli captain seized the videotape.
In a separate development, on Sunday, the Israeli army interrupted the signals of several local television stations, including Nablus TV, and began broadcasting orders for residents to turn in or provide information about wanted Palestinian men, local sources told CPJ. They used derogatory language and told residents their economic situation would rapidly deteriorate if they did not aid in Israel’s operation. They also interrupted local radio station Tareeq al-Mahaba’s signal and aired similar broadcasts, the sources said.
The IDF withdraw its large military presence in Nablus early Tuesday without stating that the operation has ended. One Palestinian man was killed during Israel’s military operation in Nablus.