The stabbing of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian attacker posing as a journalist has heightened safety concerns among those covering the daily Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The Palestinian, a 26-year-old laborer, mingled Friday with journalists covering a clash between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli troops in the city of Hebron. Wearing a T-shirt with “press” written on it, he approached a soldier, stabbed him, and was shot dead. The soldier was stabbed in the back and chest, an Israeli hospital official said.
Groups representing journalists, including the Foreign Press Association, said the impostor’s actions could further endanger reporters, photographers and camera operators in the field.
“Everybody is worried that it will be open season on reporters,” said Glenys Sugarman, executive director of the FPA, which represents journalists who work for international news outlets and cover Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
The FPA has complained in the past of harassment of some of its members by both Israeli and Palestinian forces, including cases in which reporters were beaten and equipment smashed.
Friday’s stabbing “marks a worrying development that demands that all media operate with heightened caution in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” the FPA said.
“We utterly deplore this violation of press privilege and call on local Palestinian media organizations to immediately verify all media credentials to ensure there are no violations,” the statement said.
The FPA said it tries to work closely with the Israeli military and paramilitary border police to “ensure that coordination is clear and that all dangers are minimized.”
Still, it is difficult for Palestinians to get official Israeli press credentials, called GPO cards. Even if a Palestinian journalist possesses one, it does not necessarily help when clashes spontaneously erupt and troops use various means to suppress unrest.
Journalists regularly inhale tear gas and are occasionally hit by rubber bullets. Some have been roughed up by Israeli forces while covering clashes. Last summer, the FPA protested that journalists were being harassed by Hamas when trying to cover the war in Gaza.
Journalists who witnessed Friday’s incident said the assailant, later identified as Eyad Awawdeh, had read the Quran, the Muslim holy book, before the confrontations began.
They said he wore a black T-shirt with the word “press” written on the front and back. He wore a yellow reflective vest over the T-shirt, with a rectangle cut out of the back so the “press” lettering would be visible.
The Palestinian journalists’ association said anyone posing as a journalist increases the risks faced by those covering the current violence.
The association said 70 journalists have suffered injuries this month, including by rubber-coated steel pellets and by tear gas. In Gaza, a cameraman for Palestine TV was shot in the leg Friday while covering clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops, a reporter at the station said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the impostor created a new security challenge.
“Until now, journalists were taken at face value and now we see that Palestinian terrorists do not hesitate to disguise themselves as journalists and now we will have to be more cautious,” he said. “This does not change the good relations and trust we have with foreign media here,” he added.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.