Israeli Police Beat AP Photographer


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Associated Press Writer


January 21, 2003, 6:32 PM EST

NABLUS, West Bank -- Photographers for The Associated Press and the French news agency AFP were beaten in the face by two Israeli border policemen as they tried to photograph the troops driving quickly down the street Tuesday with two Palestinian teens clinging to the hood of their jeep.

Nasser Ishtayeh, a Palestinian photographer for AP, was not seriously injured, but he suffered bruises on one ear and side of his face and visited a local clinic for examination.

AP complained to the Israeli army and demanded the incident be investigated and the soldiers punished. The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident.

Ishtayeh, who has worked for AP for nine years, had headed out with Jafar Ishtayeh, a photographer with AFP, to check out a report that youths were throwing stones at Israeli forces during a curfew.

The Ishtayehs are distant relatives.

Not far from the scene, the two saw a jeep driven by four Israeli paramilitary border policemen speeding down the road with two teenage Palestinian boys hanging from the hood of the vehicle, grabbing onto a protective metal grate in front of the windshield to keep from falling off. The two were not tied to the jeep in any way, Nasser Ishtayeh said.

Ishtayeh said it appeared the policemen were using the boys as human shields against a group of about 20 stone-hurling youths about 550 yards down the road -- which would be a violation of Israeli military orders and a Supreme Court ban of the practice.

The two journalists pulled to the side of the road, and standing beside an armored car clearly marked with "TV" signs in thick tape, they tried to photograph the jeep.

The policemen sped up to the two photographers, got out and aimed their rifles at them before they could take any pictures. The Israelis beat the two men's faces with their fists, Ishtayeh said, and demanded to know if the two had taken any pictures of them.

One policeman tightened the camera strap around Ishtayeh's neck.

"We are here in Nablus, and we see you all the time," the policeman said, according to Ishtayeh's account. "If we see a picture of us published anywhere, we're going to kill you like this," the soldier said, gesturing with his hand as if running a knife across his neck.

Anne Gwynne, 65, a British woman spending three months in the West Bank with a pro-Palestinian activist group called the International Solidarity Movement, said she tried to help Ishtayeh and his colleague.

"I saw the soldiers kicking the photographers and beating them and shouting at them," she said. "I tried to stop that. A soldier kicked and beat me with a rifle butt on my back. He was shouting, cursing."

The soldiers drove off after the confrontation with the two Palestinian boys inside the jeep, Ishtayeh said.