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12 Dec, 2018 13:25

‘Force, intimidation & tear gas’: IDF raids Palestinian news agency to ‘grab CCTV footage’

‘Force, intimidation & tear gas’: IDF raids Palestinian news agency to ‘grab CCTV footage’

There was no need for the IDF to raid the Palestinian news agency office in Ramallah and use force and tear gas to seize CCTV footage, as they could have asked for it and got it, WAFA editor Maher Abukhater has said.

Israeli soldiers raided the office of the Palestinian news agency WAFA in the West Bank on Monday. According to the agency, soldiers fired tear gas and seized footage from surveillance cameras while searching the building.

Israel gave no reason for the raid, but it is believed the action is connected to the IDF’s search for the perpetrator of an attack on Sunday which left seven Israelis wounded.

RT spoke to Maher Abukhater, English desk editor at the Palestinian news agency, who was there at the time of the raid and described how events unfolded.

RT: How unusual is such a raid?

Maher Abukhater: It is unusual. We don’t expect that IDF would raid media outlets in Ramallah, let alone anywhere else. There are international resolutions and laws that protect journalists and media outlets, particularly if they are official media as well. This raid was totally unexpected.

We were watching what was going on in the street below us. But we never believed that they would really enter the building and eventually use tear gas inside our own newsrooms.

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RT: It is believed this raid is connected to the IDF’s search for the perpetrator of Sunday’s attack. Don’t the Israeli authorities have the right to investigate this crime?

MA: They can investigate it, sure. They can follow up on it, definitely. But our office is really far from where the incident has happened. And they started an operation in the morning in Ramallah starting from the north and moving gradually into the city. And they were almost few meters away from the presidential headquarters.

I am not sure what they are going to find there. They claimed that they were looking for whatever the security cameras available to take the footage. I am not sure what makes them believe the perpetrators were even in that area.

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RT: This raid gives the impression that Israeli soldiers can storm any building, any time. Is that the status quo in the West Bank?

MA: It does happen repeatedly. These armed raids are continuous throughout the West Bank. In Ramallah it is not too often. There are usually confrontations on the outskirts, near the checkpoints. But to enter into the city itself, normally they do that if they want to come and arrest somebody. But they don’t come in with such a force, not in a broad daylight, they usually do that at night. This is quite uncommon to really see such a thing happening in Ramallah.

They could have told us that they want the footage, directly or indirectly through the Palestinian officers in liaison with the Israelis. They could have done that and the footage would have been delivered to them…

There was no need at all for what happened – no need to enter the building and to take them by force, they used intimidation and force… entered the rooms where the servers were, took the footage without any approval from the administration of WAFA.

We’ve seen an escalation in the attacks recently in the West Bank. Stalemate in the peace process, lack of hope, people not seeing prospects for any peace happening anytime soon. The pressure is mounting on the Palestinians from all sides. The things seem to be changing on the ground, affecting the situation on the ground.

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