Leaders of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) came under tear gas attack from Israeli occupation soldiers during a demonstration for press freedom outside of the Qalandia checkpoint. The group assembled outside the checkpoint in a symbolic attempt to enter the occupied and illegally-annexed city of East Jerusalem.
After holding a brief press conference, IFJ’s global leadership and a number of Palestinian journalists walked a few hundred yards along the main road towards the Qalandia checkpoint in a Freedom of Movement march, journalist Stephon Barbour told teleSUR.
Manal Khamees, a member of the IFJ's Executive Committee, was injured after being hit on the shoulder and others were left choking on tear gas after the attack.
They could have warned us, said 'stop you cannot go further.' We didn't have any warnings,” a Belgian journalist participating in the demonstration said. “This is a clear message to the whole world: 'we don't care about press freedom.'”
“Israel says it is a democracy. Democracy does not behave like that,” he added.
“The Israeli army, with no warning and no discussion, fired around 10 tear gas grenades towards the group, injuring one of the members of the IFJ’s Executive Committee on the shoulder and causing many others to choke,” IFJ leaders said in the letter, which was also sent to the United Nations and Unesco.
Omar Nazzal of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said the IFJ chose Palestine “to say that they are in support and solidarity with Palestinian journalists” who are not recognized nor respected by Israeli officials.
“This march began because Israeli authorities always say that Palestinian journalists are not journalists and they are terrorists and they don't hold international press ID... Because of that, we decide to make this march today with our colleagues with the IFJ,” Nazzal explained.
The attack against international and Palestinian journalists comes barely a week after a series of Israeli strikes on Gaza, in which the television station headquarters of al-Aqsa were destroyed.
"Israel bears full responsibility for the grave escalation it instigated in the Gaza Strip and the wanton destruction and terror it has caused,” said the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Department of Public Diplomacy and Policy in a statement Tuesday.
Israel's response to protests has been widely condemned by human rights groups. In April, during the Palestinian refugee-led Great March of Return, Israeli snipers shot and killed journalist Yaser Murtaja despite the fact he was wearing a PRESS jacket. Days later, Israeli snipers killed a second journalist, Ahmed Abu Hussein.