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Israel detains Palestinian Authority journalists in East Jerusalem

Senior Palestinian official says the detention is part of a campaign aimed at silencing people showing the reality of the Israeli occupation
Journalists from Palestine TV, the Palestinian Authority's official TV station, soon after being released by Israeli police in Jerusalem (Reuters)

Israeli forces on Friday detained four Palestinian journalists from the Palestinian Authority's (PA) television station while they were filming outside occupied East Jerusalem's Old City, the PA's official agency Wafa said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed the detention of the Palestine TV crew as "part of the Israeli government's scheme to entrench Israeli control over the occupied city of Jerusalem and its holy sites".

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Abbas said that Israel's violations are going unchecked after Washington's unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

Nader Bibars, a producer with Palestine TV, told Wafa that Israeli police and intelligence officers disrupted the filming for the well-known show Sabah el-Kher Ya Quds (Good Morning Jerusalem) and detained the producer, Dana Abu Shamsiya; cameraman Ameer Abed-Rabbu; and Mohammad al-Abbasi, a guest on the show and a former detainee in Israeli prisons.

Security forces broke into the broadcasting stage on the Mount of Olives, which has a panoramic view of the Old City.

Bibars said that the Israeli officers seized filming and broadcasting equipment, and also detained Palestine TV reporter Christine Rinawi and cameraman Ali Yassin while they were in the vicinity of the Damascus Gate.

"Is journalism a crime?" Rinawi asked an Israeli officer in civilian clothes as the military police escorted her to a car outside the Damascus Gate, according to reports.

Attack on Palestinian presence in Jerusalem

The Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation said the detention of Palestine TV journalists is a "crime added to the list of crimes committed against Palestinian media outlets and journalists".

The journalists were released later in the afternoon, except for former prisoner Abbasi who remains in detention.

They were handed an Israeli police order banning them from contacting each other and from working with Palestine TV for a period of 15 days or risk a penalty of 2,000 shekels ($576), Wafa reported.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that "the journalists were detained in connection with illegal activity by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem".

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Saeb Erekat, a senior official in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, tweeted that the detention "is not only an attack against freedom of speech but to Palestinian presence in Jerusalem; it's part of a larger campaign against any voices showing the reality of Israel’s occupation".

In November, Israeli authorities closed down several institutions claiming that they are funded by and belong to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

These institutions included the offices of Palestine TV, a branch of the PA’s Ministry of Education, the Orient House, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, and the Commercial Chamber, among others.

The Palestinian Authority claims East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state. However, US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital may have dashed these aspirations.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war, and its occupation is deemed illegal under international law.