The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate denounced the violent suppression of a peaceful sit-in in occupied East Jerusalem held Saturday afternoon, saying in a statement that the attack "will not prevent journalists from delivering Palestinians' message to the world." The group said in a statement Sunday morning that 13 Palestinian journalists were injured while attempting to cover the demonstration.
Israeli police had forcibly evacuated a peaceful sit-in organized at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, held to express support for approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who have beenon hunger strike in Israeli prisons for the past 14 days.
After marching through the streets, chanting slogans in solidarity with the hunger strikers, demonstrators were chased by Israeli police on horseback, with Israeli police officers also ripping up and confiscating pictures of Palestinian prisoners that protesters were carrying.
Some demonstrators also attempted to march towards Herod’s Gate and Salah al-Din street, but were stopped and suppressed by Israeli forces.
Israeli forces detained four activists, identified by locals as Yassin Subieh, Luay Jaber, Suhaib Saiyam, and Amer al-Qawasmi, after they were physically and verbally assaulted by Israeli police officers, witnesses told Ma'an.
Israeli forces also assaulted at least 13 journalists in an attempt to stop them from covering the attacks on demonstrators, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.
Among the injured was a reporter, Ahmad Gharabla, who was severely bruised on his chest after being assaulted by Israeli police on horseback, while Israeli police also beat Ammar Awad, a photographer, with the butts of their rifles.
Footage published by the Jerusalem-based news outlet al-Quds Network showed mounted police charging at demonstrators and journalists.
According to the statement from the journalists’ syndicate, Israeli forces also confiscated cameras and other equipment from journalists at the rally.
"This attack is just one of series of attacks committed by Israeli forces against journalists in an attempt to prevent them from exposing Israeli crimes. These attacks will not prevent journalists from delivering Palestinians' message to the world,” the statement said.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a written statement Saturday evening that Israeli police officers deployed in the area dispersed the crowds "without any noteworthy or exceptional events occurring."
The assault came days after Reporters Without Borders condemned Israeli forces for violating the rights of Palestinian and foreign journalists, particularly those that cover demonstrations, in
the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the international press freedoms NGO.
“Under Israel’s system of administrative detention, Palestinian journalists can be held indefinitely without trial, without formal charge, and without notifying a lawyer. They are often accused of inciting violence, cooperating with terrorist organizations, or otherwise posing a threat to Israel’s security,” the group wrote in the report, which ranked Israel 91 out of 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) documented 249 press freedoms violations committed by Israeli authorities in the group’s annual 2016 report.
Israeli violations involved the “injuring and arresting of dozens of Palestinian journalists, raiding, confiscating, and sabotaging media outlets, including the shutdown of 12 Palestinian media outlets and printing houses.”