JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli border police briefly detained the Washington Post‘s bureau chief in Jerusalem and a Palestinian colleague on Tuesday while they were conducting interviews at an entrance to the walled Old City.
William Booth and the newspaper’s West Bank correspondent, Sufian Taha, were taken to a police station and held for about 40 minutes before being released, the Foreign Press Association in Israel (FPA) said in a statement protesting against their detention.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, called it “a regrettable incident” and praised Booth as “an excellent journalist”. The ministry would ask the police to clarify the incident, he said.
The FPA said their detention came in the context of “heavy-handed tactics” – including what it described as violent attacks by border police against foreign journalists and their Palestinian colleagues covering unrest in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Booth and Taha, the FPA said, were interviewing Palestinian and Jewish residents at Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. The area has been the scene of several Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks in a wave of unrest that began in October.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the two journalists were detained after a passer-by had complained to police that he saw several people apparently inciting Arab youths to violence.
“When the facts were clarified and no suspicion of criminal activity arose, the investigating officer released the detainees immediately,” she said.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Photo: Israeli border police detain Washington Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth (R, with black sunglasses) at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad