Police Clash With Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Press Photographer Beaten

Clashes erupted during a calm Friday prayer protest in the East Jerusalem neighborhood in front of the home of the Salem family, who are slated for eviction by the end of the month

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Border police in Sheikh Jarrah last July
Border police in Sheikh Jarrah last JulyCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Police clashed with dozens of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Friday, ending with the detention of two Palestinians.

A few Palestinians and a press photographer were lightly injured, while one police officer sustained minor injuries.

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A calm Friday prayer protest in front of the home of the Salem family, from which 11 people are facing eviction, rapidly turned into confrontations.

The clashes erupted as residents of the neighborhood were sitting in a circle next to the family's house, which was fenced off by settlers earlier this week. The family is slated for eviction on December 29.

Police used crowed control measures including stun grenades and clubs, while Palestinians threw chairs at them. Officers also entered the house next door to the Salem family's, after fireworks were fired from it.

The Associated Press said its photographer was pushed and beaten by police while covering the protest, sending him to the hospital with head injuries.

According to Mahmoud Illean, 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.

“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.

Tensions over the case of Sheikh Jarrah has become a rallying point for the Palestinian cause. The families of the neighborhood, who have been living on the site since 1956, are facing imminent eviction from their homes.

In November, a group of residents of the neighborhood rejected a compromise that had been proposed by Israel's Supreme Court. The plan would have allowed them to remain in their homes for at least 15 years, in exchange for recognizing the ownership interests of a settler group to which they would have to pay nominal rent.  

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