JERUSALEM (AP) – Two photographers, including one working for The Associated Press, were struck by rubber-coated bullets fired at close range by an Israeli border policeman.
Neither photographer was seriously hurt in Sunday’s incident, which came during protests that followed the funeral of a 14-year-old Palestinian boy killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers.
It was the latest incident in which journalists have been injured by teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets fired by border police, a paramilitary unit often sent in to quell demonstrations.
The AP said it planned to protest to the Israeli military, police and government. John Daniszewski, senior managing editor for international news, said the shooting showed “reckless disregard for the safety of journalists who were doing their job in a lawful way.”
AP photographer Majdi Mohammed said he was among several photographers who took up positions near the protests in the West Bank town of Silwad. Mohammed said they were not ordered to leave and the area had not been declared closed.
As he was taking pictures, an armored jeep pulled up behind him, a border policeman stepped out and fired directly at him from a distance of 10 to 20 metres (10 to 20 yards), Mohammed said.
“The impact was so strong that it made me fall to the ground,” he said. “The policeman aimed straight at us even though we were clearly a group of media people and there were no protesters at all around us.”
Mohammed was bruised on his arm and experienced numbness in his hand after the shooting. He was also hit in the ribs, but was not injured there because he wore a protective vest.
Lazar Simeonov, a Swiss freelance photographer, was also hit by the same round – a canister that discharges several rubber-coated bullets at once.
Simeonov also said the photographers were set up to the side of the protest and about 20 meters from Israeli security forces when they were hit. He said one of his fingers was hurt and his camera was broken.
“After the incident I also tried to talk to the soldiers and asked them why they shot at us but they didn’t want to hear anything and just smiled and told me to go away,” Simeonov said.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police “dispersed hundreds of rioters” in the area, and that demonstrators threw firebombs, stones and concrete blocks at security forces. He said it was not immediately clear why the border patrol officer had opened fire.