A masked right-wing protester attacked a Palestinian press photographer on Wednesday, during a demonstration against the release of Palestinian detainee Hisham Abu Hawash in front of the central Israeli hospital he is kept in after ending a 141-day hunger strike.
The Israeli protester struck Faiz Abu Rmeleh, a photographer for Turkish news agency Anadolu, with two fists, knocked him to the ground, and fled the scene. The police canvassed the scene, but has yet to locate the suspect.
Abu Rmeleh was evacuated to the hospital with bruises on his head. He intends to press charges upon release from care.
The assault was preceded by a confrontation between Abu Rmeleh and two protesters who tried to disrupt the broadcast of Emirati news channel Al Ghad. “We were on the air and they heard us speaking Arabic," Al Ghad journalist Iman Jabour told Haaretz. "They advanced toward us with the intention of disrupting and cursing in the middle of the broadcast, and they spoke between them about my photographer being Arab.”
Abu Rmeleh believed that they were about to attack Jabour and the photographer with her, and began documenting the incident.
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“One of them came up to me and asked who I work for. I told him I work for Anadolu, a foreign media company,” Abu Rmeleh recalled. “He said to me, 'You’re a liar, and you’re all liars,' and began advancing toward me. I told him to keep away from me because of COVID and that I have no problem with him. He spoke to me in Russian, thinking that I’m Russian. When I told him that I don’t understand what he’s saying, he repeated it in Hebrew – ‘Go away, I’ll kill you.’ After that he knocked me down."
According to Abu Rmeleh, they approached after seeing Arabic script on Jabour’s microphone. “He didn’t come to protest. He came to attack and make trouble,” he says.
While the attacker fled, the other protester that was with him remained at the demonstration and was not arrested. “I told the policemen that one of them stayed there, but they said that they don’t see anything. They didn’t arrest either of them,” Jabour told Haaretz.
Earlier on Wednesday, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Religious Zionism party called upon the public to attend a demonstration in front of the hospital, to protest the release of Abu Hawash from his detention without trial that he was protesting.
The ad published by Ben-Gvir on behalf of the “Otzma Yehudit” list read: “Stopping the Israeli government’s surrender to terrorism. Bennett and Gantz have surrendered to the demand of terror supporters in Knesset and ordered the release of hunger-striking terrorist Abu Hawash. We will come to the hospital and demand that the disgrace be stopped.”