Palestinians cross from the West Bank city of Bethlehem to Jerusalem in March 2024. Two Palestinian General Intelligence Service agents arrested journalist Khalil Dweeb, on April 16. (Photo: AP/Mahmoud Illean)

Palestinian intelligence arrests journalist Khalil Dweeb in Bethlehem

New York, April 19, 2024—Palestinian authorities in the West Bank must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Khalil Dweeb, who has been detained since Tuesday, April 16, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

Two Palestinian General Intelligence Service agents arrested Dweeb, a freelance camera operator who contributes to the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, on Tuesday after he was summoned to a police station to pick up his cell phone, according to news reports and the journalist’s lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, who spoke to CPJ. Police had seized Dweeb’s phone some time ago, Karajah said.

The Bethlehem prosecutor’s office initially extended his detention for 24 hours to complete the investigation on allegations from the prosecutor’s office of possession of an illegal weapon, according to Karajah and a Thursday statement, the independent Palestinian legal support group Lawyers for Justice.

The magistrate’s court in Bethlehem on Thursday extended Dweeb’s detention for five days at the request of the prosecution, according to those reports. In the Thursday statement, the Lawyers for Justice said Dweeb’s arrest was related to his work as a journalist.

“It is unacceptable that Khalil Dweeb is the second journalist arrested by Palestinian intelligence in less than a month, especially as they work to cover the brutal war in Gaza and broader suffering throughout the region,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna. “Palestinian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Dweeb and allow journalists to work freely and without fear of retaliation.”

Dweeb has been reporting on the West Bank for Al-Jazeera. In March, he covered clashes between Palestinian resistance fighters and the Israeli Army in Nablus, the Israeli forces’ killing of a Palestinian resistance fighter near Tulkarem, and the effects of Israeli raids in Tulkarem’s Nur Shams refugee camp. Previously, Dweeb contributed footage to the local radio station Radio Bethlehem 2000 and J-Media Network news agency.

The Palestinian General Intelligence Service did not immediately respond to CPJ´s request for comment on al-Bitawi’s arrest, which was sent via Facebook.

Palestinian General Intelligence agents also have arrested Palestinian journalist Ahmed al-Bitawi, a reporter for the Sanad news agency. Al-Bitwawi was arrested while he was reporting on a march in support of Gaza in the West Bank city of Nablus on March 29. After 10 days in detention, Al-Bitawi was released on April 8, according to news reports.

In April 2019, Palestinian security forces arrested Dweeb and held him for questioning, according to the Palestinian press freedom group MADA.