IDF Company Commander Dismissed After Troops Attack AFP Photographers

Troops smashed press photographers' cameras during West Bank demonstration.

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A screenshot of the video showing Israeli soldiers attacking AFP journalists, September 26, 2015.
A screenshot of the video showing Israeli soldiers attacking AFP journalists, September 26, 2015.Credit: Screenshot
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

A deputy company commander whose troops attacked two press photographers from the French AFP news agency last week has been removed from his position following the completion of an army investigation of the incident.

The decision comes at the recommendation of brigade commander Yaron Finkelman, who conducted the investigation, and after a hearing held on Thursday on the matter, after which Brig. Gen. Udi Ben-Moha of the IDF's Southern Command ruled that the officer had failed to do his duty. Ben-Moha accepted the recommendation to remove the company commander from his position, and it will be decided later whether he will be given a desk job or be dismissed from the military.

The attack on the press photographers occurred near Beit Furik last Friday, in the vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus in the course of a demonstration, and it and was filmed by other journalists on the scene. The AFP news agency said its two staff people, Italian video journalist Andrea Bernardi and Palestinian photographer Abbas Momani, came to Beit Furik to cover a demonstration in the town after the funeral of a Palestinian who had been shot by IDF troops. A video clip filmed by a crew from the Palestinian Palmedia production firm shows the two photographers marching on the side of a road together with the demostrators just before the photographers' equipment was destroyed. AFP said in the course of the incident a soldier attacked Bernardi in his neck and face.

Soldiers attacking AFP photographer and cameraman. ..

The Jerusalem Journalists Association contacted the IDF over the case and asked that any steps necessary be taken to prevent future injuries to journalists covering incidents. Association chairman Hika Ginosar asked that IDF troops who come in contact with members of the press in the field be instructed of "the importance of a free press in a democratic country and the tolerance necessary to enable coverage of events" by foreign media outlets.

The same day the video was made public, the IDF acknowledged that the incident in Beit Furik was "serious" both with respect to ethics involved and from a command perspective, and that the Israeli troops had not acted as expected. The deputy company commander was immediately suspended from duty, a suspension that is now being followed by his removal from his post.

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