Palestinian journalist hit in head by bullet during raid on terror suspect’s home

MEE Staff

Bethan McKernan

The Guardian  /  June 8, 2023

News photographer Moamen Sumreen (22) had been covering the demolition of the apartment in Ramallah.

A Palestinian news photographer is in a serious condition in hospital after being hit in the head by a rubber bullet during a rare Israeli raid in Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative capital in the occupied West Bank.

A convoy of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) vehicles entered the city late on Wednesday night in order to demolish the home of a terrorism suspect who had been accused of planting two bombs targeting rush-hour commuters in Jerusalem last November that killed two people and injured another 21.

At least six people were hospitalized overnight, three with gunshot wounds, Palestinian medical officials said, after hundreds of people gathered to protest against the army’s presence. The IDF said soldiers responded with “riot dispersal means” to young men throwing rocks.

Moamen Sumreen, 22, a journalist covering the operation, was seriously wounded after being hit in the head by a rubber bullet, his family said.

His uncle Mohammed Sumreen, also a journalist, told Agence-France Presse they had been part of a group of reporters and photographers watching events from the roof of a nearby building, and that Moamen had been wearing a jacket clearly marked “press” when he was fired at.

The Israeli army said in a statement that the incident was “under review”.

Photographer Rabih al-Munir was also injured by rubber-coated metal bullets that hit him in the abdomen, the Palestinian Press Syndicate said. The wounding of the journalists drew immediate parallels with last year’s high-profile killing of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

A May report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that Israel had not charged or found any soldier accountable for the killings of 20 journalists, 18 of whom were Palestinian, since 2001.

Court-approved house demolitions are a common tactic used by Israel, which says they deter Palestinians from resorting to violence, and are sometimes carried out in coordination with the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority. Human rights groups have long maintained that they amount to collective punishment.

The use of explosives to destroy the first floor apartment where 26-year-old suspect Aslam Faroukh lived before his arrest in December was unusual – as was the location, Ramallah, a major Palestinian city in which Israel supposedly has no jurisdiction.

The demolition went ahead after “an appeal to the supreme court against [it] was rejected”, the army said in a statement.

Tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have soared over the last 18 months, leading to fears that a return to full-scale fighting is on the horizon: in 2023 so far, at least 156 Palestinians and 21 Israelis have been killed.

November’s twin explosions near a bus stop and a busy junction in the occupied eastern half of Jerusalem, both of which were detonated remotely, were the first bombings targeting Israeli civilians in the city in years.

Faroukh was arrested in connection with the attack a month later. He is believed to have acted alone, and to identify with Islamic State, rather than Palestinian factions.

Attacks on Israeli buses and public spaces, most of them carried out by suicide bombers, were a hallmark of the 2000-2005 intifada, or people’s uprising, but have been rare since.

Bethan McKernan is Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian