News agency says IDF soldiers attacked its journalists

AFP claims troops assaulted reporters in West Bank, smashed equipment; army to probe incident at ‘highest levels’

Israeli soldiers confront Palestinian protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron on September 23, 2015 (Hazem Bader/AFP)
Israeli soldiers confront Palestinian protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron on September 23, 2015 (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Two AFP journalists were assaulted Friday by Israeli soldiers who destroyed and seized their equipment in the West Bank, the news agency reported.

A video journalist with the agency, Italian Andrea Bernardi, was thrown to the ground and jabbed in the side with a weapon, AFP said.

According to the report Bernardi was held on the ground by a soldier, one knee compressing his chest, until he managed to show his press card. Bernardi suffered bruised ribs and an injury under the eye.

AFP said the soldiers pointed their weapons at Bernardi and his colleague, Palestinian photographer Abbas Momani. They also allegedly smashed a video camera and a camera for photographs and took away another camera and a mobile phone. Some of the alleged confrontation was caught on video.

At the time both journalists were wearing body armor clearly marked “Press,” AFP said.

The pair had been covering clashes between Palestinians and soldiers when some troops took them aside, swore at them in English and told them to stop recording events, AFP said.

AFP said it had protested to the Israeli military over the incident and said it intended to file an official complaint.

Army spokesman Colonel Peter Lerner told the agency that “disciplinary measures will be taken.”

“The highest levels of command are aware of the incident,” he said, specifying that this included the head of Israeli forces in the West Bank.

In an incident on April 24, the Palestinian photographer manhandled Friday and a Palestinian colleague had stones thrown at them by Israeli soldiers, AFP said.

That incident was filmed, and the army announced that disciplinary action would be taken against the soldiers involved.

Friday’s clashes between Palestinians and troops at Beit Furik came after the funeral of Ahmed Khatatbeh, 26, who died of his wounds after being shot by soldiers near Nablus in the northern West Bank. The army said he and another man had thrown a petrol bomb at a vehicle on a road to the Jewish settlement of Itamar.

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