JERUSALEM – An Associated Press photographer was pushed and beaten by Israeli police in an unprovoked attack Friday while covering a protest in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood, sending him to the hospital with head injuries.
The AP said it was outraged by the violence against staffer Mahmoud Illean, while a prominent journalists’ advocacy group called for disciplinary action against the officers involved.
Illean had been covering a weekly demonstration in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where longtime Palestinian residents are battling efforts by Jewish settlers to evict them from their homes. The case, which has drawn global attention and fueled Israeli-Palestinian tensions, has been before Israel’s Supreme Court for months.
According to Illean, Friday’s demonstration was relatively quiet, with only minor scuffles between Israel’s paramilitary border police and protesters.
He said that about 15 minutes after the demonstration wrapped up, he was approached by a group of border police officers who threw stun grenades toward him.
Video from the scene shows Illean standing in front of a white car when one of the officers approaches him, pushes him backward onto the ground and then proceeds to punch him several times. A second video showed Illean photographing police attacking several other journalists before the officer turned on him.
Illean's face was bleeding and he was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital for X-rays. He did not suffer any fractures and returned home several hours later with a bruised face and head and back pain.
Israel’s border police is a paramilitary force that often is sent to quell riots, and its officers have been targets of Palestinian attackers. At the same time, its officers have frequently been accused of using excessive force against unarmed protesters and journalists.
“We are outraged by this senseless and unprovoked attack by Israeli police on an AP photographer, who was simply doing his job,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton. "Such violence against journalists is abhorrent and unacceptable.”
The Foreign Press Association, which represents some 400 journalists working for international media in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said Friday’s incident was the latest in a string of attacks on journalists by the border police.
“The Foreign Press Association strongly condemns this behavior, which raises serious questions about the discipline and professionalism of the officers,” the group said. It called for a "serious investigation” and “appropriate disciplinary action against the officer involved.”
Responding to the FPA, police sent a statement saying that officers were clearing out the area after a violent demonstration in which one officer was hit in the head and slightly hurt by a chair thrown by a protester. It gave no explanation as to why Illean was targeted, saying only that relevant authorities would investigate.
Illean has worked for the AP for five years. His image of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque last May was named one of Time magazine’s top 100 photos of 2021.