During a mass prayer service of Palestinians protesting Israel’s refusal to release a group of Palestinian political prisoners, Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian photojournalist.
RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank — Israeli military forces shot and injured a Palestinian photojournalist during a demonstration in the occupied West Bank last week.
Mohammad Basman Yasin, 21, is a volunteer photojournalist for the Israeli organization B’Tselem, a group that monitors human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory. An Israeli sniper shot him on Friday, when the military responded with force to Palestinian demonstrators outside of Ofer Military Prison, located in the Ramallah area of the occupied West Bank.
Israel’s poor record on media freedoms has been widely criticized by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights groups.
Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 Press Freedom Index ranked Israel 96th for press freedoms among 180 countries across the globe.
Mousa Rimawi, the general director of the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), explained that Israeli forces have a long history of injuring and killing journalists in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Gaza Strip.
“Since 2000, the Israeli military has killed at least 22 journalists,” Rimawi told MintPress News.
Palestinians were protesting Israel’s cancellation of the final phase of an agreement to free 104 long-term Palestinian political prisoners. The Palestinian Authority headed to the United Nations last week as United States-brokered negotiations with Israel wavered on the brink of collapse. Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni responded by announcing that the final 26 men will not be released.
Clashes erupted Friday, when Israeli forces began to use weapons other than live ammunition as Palestinian protesters assembled for a mass prayer service. Protesters responded by throwing stones.
Mariam Barghouti, a prominent activist with the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), explained that Israeli forces attempted to crush and prevent the demonstration altogether. “[Soldiers] began firing excessive amounts of tear gas canisters before the demonstration officially began,” she told MintPress.
“They had several snipers on location,” Barghouti added. “Some were shooting plastic-coated steel bullets and others live ammunition indiscriminately.”
Israeli military targeting photographers
Yasin is from Bil’in, a Palestinian village about 8 miles west of Ramallah. As part of his work for B’Tselem, he regularly documents protests in places across the West Bank.
“Mohammad had his camera and his press vest on to show that he was a photographer and not a protester,” said Hamdeh Abu Rahmeh, Yasin’s cousin who was present at the time Yasin was shot. “He was photographing the people there and the protest when he got shot with a live bullet in his stomach.”
Witnesses maintain that Yasin was standing at the back of a large crowd when he was shot. The video shows two activists throwing stones in the direction of a military jeep. Then, around 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the video, Yasin falls to ground after being struck.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli military’s Open-Fire Regulations have undergone extensive changes since the Second Palestinian Intifada (2000-2004). The group adds that many Palestinian casualties and fatalities in recent years are the result of the “routine use of lethal gunfire in situations that were non-life-threatening either to soldiers or civilians.”
Abu Rahmeh said, “It seems [Yasin] was shot with a dumdum bullet,” referring to bullets that explode upon entering their target.
Yasin, who was also struck in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet, is presently under doctor supervision at Ramallah Hospital. As a result of the bullet that entered his stomach, he suffered injuries that could potentially result in the removal of his kidneys and liver.
“His kidney is damaged and the doctors are monitoring it to see if it will be able to operate on its own,” Abu Rahmeh explained. “The doctors said part of the bullet cannot be removed because it is lodged very deep. Three of his ribs were also broken.”
When asked to describe the atmosphere at the time Yasin was shot, Abu Rahmeh said, “They were shooting live ammunition and many people were injured.”
Though the Israeli military spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment on this article, she told Ma’an News Agency that soldiers had fired at “rioters… lightly injuring” five persons.
According to media reports, at least 13 people were reportedly injured during the protest, including seven hit by live ammunition.
Not a new policy
Although no journalists have been killed so far this year, Israeli forces have exposed journalists to physical violence and arrests on several occasions.
On March 22, six Palestinian journalists were detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.
A week earlier, television correspondent Fida Nasser, who works for Palestine Today, was detained after being attacked by Israeli settlers while filming a segment in the West Bank city of Hebron. During her five-hour interrogation, she was accused of assaulting a female Israeli settler.
Harassing journalists, according to MADA’s Rimawi, “is not a new policy for Israel; it’s an old one.”
Follow Patrick O. Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_