Israeli military forces arrested Palestinian freelance journalist Musaab Qafesha on October 20, 2023. He was later placed in administrative detention for six months.
Qafesha contributes reporting from Hebron and other West Bank locales to broadcasters and news agencies including Egypt’s Al-Watan TV, Iraq’s Al-Rafidiain TV, Al-Watan News Agency, and the Quds News Network. Qafesha also used to work for the monitoring and documentation team of the Palestinian digital rights group Sada Social.
Israeli soldiers surrounded Qafesha’s home in Hebron and urged Qafesha and his brother to come out. As soon as they complied, they were handcuffed, taken to military jeeps and driven away to an unknown destination, according to Palestinian press freedom group MADA, citing another brother, and news reports.
On October 26, Qafesha was placed in administrative detention for six months, according to Facebook posts by the official Commission of Detainees Affairs. Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge if they suspect the detainee of planning to commit a future offense, and then extend the detention an unlimited number of times, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Judges may accept evidence against the detainee without disclosing it on security grounds.
Qafesha´s father, Khamis Abdulkader Qafesha, told CPJ that he believed his son may have been arrested because of his activity on social media, though he could not identify anything specific that might have drawn scrutiny.
Qafesha has reported on Israeli military operations in Hebron, clashes between Israeli forces and members of Hamas, and what he described as Israeli violations in the West Bank. In recent months, he covered the killing of Badr Sami Masri in Nablus by Israeli forces and the arrest of Hamas leader Sheikh Mustafa Abu Arra. On his personal Facebook account, he also criticized institutions in Hebron for failing to condemn Palestinian forces’ response to student protests.
Another relative of Qafesha’s, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal, said that Qafesha was being held in Ofer Prison in the Israeli occupied West Bank.
Qafesha is one of the 17 Palestinian journalists in Israeli custody as of December 1, 2023, the date of CPJ’s annual prison census. Palestinian officials say Israeli forces have conducted mass arrests in the occupied West Bank since October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, prompting Israel to declare war on the militant group. Dozens of members of the press have died, the vast majority Palestinian journalists and media workers killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. There have also been numerous reports of assault, threats, cyberattacks, and censorship.
Qafesha has been arrested previously. In June 2022, Israeli forces arrested him at his home in Hebron and held him for four days at Ofer Prison, according to news reports and the regional press freedom organization SKeyes. Qafesha told SKeyes at the time that that he was questioned about his work as a journalist, especially about his coverage of funerals of people killed by Israeli forces and the release of Palestinian prisoners. He was released without charge.
In 2021, Qafesha was jailed for three weeks by Israel, according to the Palestine Information Center and the news website Qudsnet. The same report said that he spent 18 months in Israeli jails between 2012 and 2016.
CPJ emailed the Israel Security Agency, also known as the Shin Bet, in late 2023 for comment on the cases of imprisoned Palestinian journalists but received no response.