Press group demands ‘credible’ investigation into shooting of Gaza cameraman

Press group demands ‘credible’ investigation into shooting of Gaza cameraman

AP staffer Rashed Rashid was wounded, allegedly by IDF fire, during violent protest at border; AP, Foreign Press Association say he stood far from demonstrators, wore ‘PRESS’ vest

Colleagues wheel AP cameraman Rashed Rashid, 47, into a treatment room in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip after he is shot in his left leg while covering a protest on the beach, November 19, 2018. (AP Photo/ Adel Hana)
Colleagues wheel AP cameraman Rashed Rashid, 47, into a treatment room in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip after he is shot in his left leg while covering a protest on the beach, November 19, 2018. (AP Photo/ Adel Hana)

The Jerusalem-based Foreign Press Association called for a “thorough and credible” investigation by Israel into the circumstances of an apparent shooting by IDF troops of an Associated Press cameraman during a protest on the Israel-Gaza border on Monday.

“We deplore the shooting of any journalist and urge the army to conduct a thorough and credible investigation,” the FPA said, adding: “We expect serious disciplinary action if wrongdoing is discovered.”

Rashed Rashid, 47, was shot in his left ankle while filming hundreds of Palestinians who were protesting on a beach by the border fence near Beit Lahia, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry said Monday.

Rashid, who has worked for AP since 2002, was filming a protest by some 800 Palestinians that saw many throwing rocks and at least one explosive device at Israeli soldiers on the other side of the security fence, according to the Israeli army. The bomb fell short of the border and caused no injuries, according to a military spokesperson.

The protest, which took place across the border from the Israeli community of Kibbutz Zikim, was smaller than other border protests in recent weeks.

IDF troops responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the IDF said. Twenty-five people, including the AP cameraman, were injured, according to Gazan authorities.

A Palestinian demonstrator uses a slingshot to throw stones towards Israeli forces during a protest on November 16, 2018, on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City, near the border with Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

According to AP, witnesses saw Rashid standing about 600 meters (1,969 feet) from the border fence, far from the protesters. He was operating a live camera on an elevated area overlooking the protest and wearing a blue helmet and brown protective vest with the word “PRESS” written in white.

“At no point did he pose a threat to the military or the protesters,” the FPA said in its Wednesday statement. “It is hard to understand how or why someone taking so many precautions would be shot.”

The statement also called on the IDF “to show maximum restraint in areas where journalists are operating and to honor its stated commitment to respecting freedom of the press.”

Najib Jobain, the AP’s senior producer in Gaza, said he was speaking on the phone to Rashid when he was shot.

Israeli soldiers taking positions during clashes with Palestinian protesters across the Gaza border on October 19, 2018 near Nahal Oz. (Jack Guez/AFP)

“While with me on the line, I heard him shouting ‘I’m hit, I’m hit,'” recounted Jobain, who said Rashid told him the protest was ending and he was going to stop the transmission.

Majed Hamdan, the AP’s driver, was working with Rashid and was collecting equipment to load into their vehicle as the protest was winding down. “I began putting some of our stuff in the car when I heard Rashed screaming,” he said.

AP reported that Rashid suffered multiple bone fractures above the ankle and would need surgery.

The IDF said it was investigating the incident.

During the Monday protest, 20 ships set sail from the Palestinian enclave toward Israel in an apparent attempt to break through the naval blockade Israel has in place around Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep terror groups in the Strip from obtaining weapons and war materiel.

Monday’s riots came days after a Palestinian was killed and more than a dozen were injured in similar clashes along the border with Israeli troops and a week after a major flareup between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding the weekly “March of Return” protests on the border, which Israel has accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence. Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

Last Friday, nearly 10,000 Palestinians participated in riots and demonstrations near the border. Most people stayed away from the border fence, although some burned tires and threw rocks and explosives at soldiers who responded with tear gas and occasional live fire.

Palestinians wave their national flags while others burn tires near the fence of Gaza Strip border with Israel during clashes east of Gaza City, on November 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

One Palestinian was reportedly killed and 14 others were brought to hospitals with injuries.

The clashes come days after Israel engaged in the largest battle with Hamas and Palestinian terror groups in Gaza since the 2014 war.

Some 500 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of last Monday and Tuesday, according to the Israel Defense Forces — more than twice the rate at which they were launched during the 2014 conflict.

Officials assess the damage to a house after it was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel, November 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage.

In response, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

The fighting ended last Tuesday after a Hamas-announced ceasefire took effect, though this was not officially confirmed by Israel.

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