Egyptian authorities arrested an Israeli journalist attempting to sneak across the border with African migrants before dawn yesterday, as he tracked their route into Israel. Efforts by the foreign ministry and the Israel Defense Forces to gain his release continued through the day.
Yotam Feldman, a reporter for a number of publications including Haaretz, was preparing a report for Israel's Channel 10 television while on leave from Haaretz.
Channel 10 told Haaretz that Feldman had been working on an investigative report on illegal immigration.
The channel said it was in touch with the IDF and Foreign Ministry officials to bring about Feldman's release.
Feldman joined a group of African refugees who tried to cross the border into Israel near Nitzana with the help of Bedouin smugglers.
An Egyptian security official, who could not confirm the journalist's identity, said Feldman had no identification papers or money and was carrying a video camera. After being captured with a Ghana national and taken to the Egyptian police headquarters in Rafah, he told his investigators he was an Israeli journalist reporting on African migrants crossing the border, the official said.
The Egyptian police notified the IDF division in charge of the border.
Feldman's father, Avigdor, told Haaretz that he understood his son had traveled to Egypt on a press assignment and that he had had no contact with him since his departure.
The IDF said it was trying to secure Feldman's release.
A medical official in the Egyptian city of Rafah said the 30-year-old Israeli had injured his hand on a barbed wire fence as he tried to hop the border.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the arrest.
About two months ago two bicycle riders accidentally crossed the into Egypt in the Nitzana area and were returned a few hours later. However, Israeli officials said the Egyptians are likely to be harsher in Feldman's case because he knowingly broke Egyptian law by trying to sneak across the border.
Smugglers aid hundreds of African migrants trying to cross into Israel every year from Egypt in a bid to find work and political asylum.
IDF soldiers posted on the border have said that when Egyptian soldiers find the refugees near the border they open fire at them, killing and wounding them.
"Yotam Feldman requested an unpaid 10-day vacation from Haaretz in order to pursue projects unrelated to his work at the newspaper," Haaretz said in a statement. "To the best of our knowledge, Feldman was working on a report for another media outlet. We hope for and expect his safe return soon."
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