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Reuters protests after Israeli soldiers assault cameramen

Reuters registered "extreme dismay" with the Israeli military authorities after Israeli soldiers punched two cameramen and forced them to strip in the street. The soldiers let off a tear gas canister in front of the cameramen, leaving one of them needing hospital treatment.

Yousri Al Jamal and Ma'amoun Wazwaz said a foot patrol stopped them in the West Bank town of Hebron on Wednesday evening as they were driving to a nearby checkpoint where a Palestinian teenager had just been shot dead by an Israeli border guard.

Their car was clearly marked “TV” and they were both wearing blue flak jackets with “Press” emblazoned on the front.

The soldiers forced them to leave the vehicle and punched them, striking them with the butts of their guns. They accused them of working for an Israeli NGO, B’Tselem, which documents human rights violations in the occupied West Bank, the cameramen said.

The soldiers did not let them produce their official ID papers and forced them to strip down to their underwear, making them kneel on the road with their hands behind their heads, the cameramen said.

Two other Palestinian journalists working for local news organisations, including a satellite television station affiliated to the Islamist group Hamas, were also stopped and forced to the ground.

One of the soldiers then dropped a tear gas canister between the men and the IDF patrol ran away. The four journalists scrambled clear and Jamal and Wazwaz got to their car, which had rapidly filled up with tear gas, they said.

They tried to drive away, but said they only got around 200 metres before they had to stop and exit the vehicle because of the choking gas. The soldiers then fired more tear gas in their direction.

Wazwaz was overcome by the fumes and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He was released later the same night.

The Israeli soldiers took two gas masks and a video camera from their car. The undamaged camera was later found abandoned further up the road.

“We deplore the mistreatment of our journalists and have registered our extreme dismay with the Israeli military authorities,” editor-in-chief Stephen Adler said on Thursday.

Israel’s military said it took the allegations seriously, but offered no explanation for the assault.

“The regional brigade commander was ordered to open an investigation,” Israeli Defence Forces spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said in an e-mail. No further information would be provided until the investigation was complete. ■