Jerusalem (The Inside Palestine)-While covering acts of violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites for Muslims, several Palestinian journalists were “deliberately assaulted” and arrested by Israeli police forces, according to statements of witnesses and journalists to The New Arab.
Since last week, Al-Aqsa Mosque has seen a dramatic escalation as hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed the site under the protection of the Israeli police, while Palestinian worshipers attempted to hold them off.
As Palestinian journalists and photographers rushed to document the attacks by the Israeli police on young Palestinians, several of them say that they were “deliberately assaulted” by the Israeli security forces “to prevent any documentation of [Israel’s] crimes against Palestinian worshipers.”
“Taking pictures and recording videos of the Israeli attacks amounted to exposing the inhumane practices of the Israeli forces,” one Palestinian journalist said to The New Arab.
“Our mission is to document the violations committed by Israeli settlers and the occupation forces, such as chasing after the worshippers, shooting them with live or rubber bullets and tear gas bombs, in an attempt to empty the mosque and make way for the settlers to celebrate the Jewish Passover,” he added.
In one case documented by video and shared on various social media accounts, the Israeli police had severely beaten Rami Al-Khatib, 43, a cameraman working for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Endowments in Jerusalem while he was asked aloud, “Why are you beating me?”
Despite his questions, the Israeli police officers continued to beat his feet, hands and back with their batons as he held on to his camera. Al-Khatib’s camera and right hand were broken by the attack.
Al-Khatib told The New Arab that he often works at the Al-Aqsa compound and is known to the Israeli police in the area.
He says the incident occurred the moment he had publicised his press card and contends that the attack by the Israeli police was intentional, since the division commander in the Special Forces had recognised his journalistic identity, yet continued to beat him.
This was not the first time that Al-Khatib has been attacked by the Israeli security forces, and has previously been arrested and interrogated due to his work.
However, Al-Khatib says, the assaults by the Israeli forces have not stopped him from returning to his work, asserting the importance of documenting violations and attacks by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“During these confrontations, the Israeli police deliberately confiscate journalists’ cameras and phones, in addition to chasing and arresting them,” he added, “there is a fierce attack on activists and photographers.”
Al-Khatib is not the only journalist to have his moment of assault documented. Nisreen Salem, a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem, also experienced abuse by the Israeli police forces.
Salem is a reporter for the Al-Qastal news website, which reports events in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa and attempts to expose “the racist practices of the occupation against Muslim worshipers and Jerusalemites in general.”
She was recently shot in her head by a rubber bullet by an Israeli police officer, even though she was wearing protective gear and her press card was clearly seen hanging from her neck.
“My identity is known to the Israeli police, but they deliberately targeted me and all the journalists in the place,” she told The New Arab.
“The Israeli police are deliberately prosecuting journalists who work in sites. Their lives are in danger,” Salem said. She claims one of the reasons behind these attacks by the Israeli forces was because they believe the Palestinian journalists were promoting “Palestinian terrorism”.
Nevertheless, Salem asserted that despite these assaults by Israeli security forces, “[journalists] quickly return to cover the events, whether immediately after their release or after having their fractures fixed in hospitals.”
What motivates these journalists, Salem argues, is that the matter “is not merely a job but the importance of exposing how an occupier is violating the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
For his part, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, denounced Israel’s attacks on journalists who are attempting to document “the occupation’s crimes against worshippers.”
“Every day, more than 600 settlers, in groups, storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Magharba Gate, one of the mosque’s doors, and carry out provocative tours and perform prayers and religious rituals to celebrate the Jewish Passover,” he told The New Arab.
Since the first day of Jewish Passover, which began last Friday on 15 April and is set to end this Thursday on 21 April, Israeli settlers backed by Israeli security forces often entered the compound.
Over the past days, these belligerent actions by the Israeli settlers and security forces have resulted in more than 200 Palestinians being injured and 300 Palestinians arrested, most of whom have been released.
So far, the total number of journalists who have been subjected to Israeli violations has not been confirmed.
Source: The New Arab