The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is outraged that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at reporters outside the Ramallah compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Israeli troops fired stun grenades at a group of at least two dozen reporters attempting to cover the pending arrival of U.S. Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni, who visited the compound today to meet with Arafat, CPJ has confirmed.
Eyewitnesses told CPJ that the journalists had driven to the compound in several armored press cars. Shortly after they arrived at the compound and exited the vehicles, IDF troops arrived. The Israeli soldiers then hurled about six stun grenades in their direction.
According to CNN, stun grenades “produce a blinding flash and a very loud explosion, designed to disorient those targeted.”
One grenade exploded under CNN reporter Michael Holmes’ foot. The IDF troops ordered the journalists to leave and then fired rubber bullets at their armored vehicles, CNN reported.
The journalists regrouped and tried to return to the area but were turned back by Israeli troops. Some journalists had their press accreditation confiscated, CPJ sources said.
“We are outraged by the Israeli army’s continuing attacks against journalists,” said CPJ Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna.
“We call on the IDF to lift the restrictions now in place on media access to several towns and cities of the West Bank,” Campagna said.
The latest incident occurs against a backdrop of mounting Israeli press restrictions. Since Friday, the IDF have declared at least six West Bank towns “closed military areas” and therefore off-limits to the press. Journalists have experienced severe limits on their ability to enter or move within these towns.
On several recent occasions, IDF troops have fired on, or in the direction of, working journalists. These attacks are clearly aimed at discouraging journalists from covering the current crisis in the West Bank.
CPJ is also investigating reports that Israeli forces detained a number of Palestinian journalists in Bethlehem yesterday.