AP Photographer Attacked, Beaten By Israeli Police While Covering Protest in Jerusalem

Press organizations condemned the Israeli paramilitary border police after officers beat Associated Press photographer Mahmoud Illean while he was covering a protest in Jerusalem Friday.

Illean had been photographing a protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, where Palestinian residents demonstrate weekly against people trying to evict them from their homes.

Illean said a group of officers threw stun grenades at him about 15 minutes after the demonstration ended. There is video evidence of the police punching him multiple times.

In a statement, the police said they had been clearing the area after a protester hit an officer with a chair. They did not specify what their reason was for attacking Illean.

AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton expressed the organization's anger at the police.

"We are outraged by this senseless and unprovoked attack by Israeli police on an AP photographer, who was simply doing his job," Easton said. "Such violence against journalists is abhorrent and unacceptable."

After the incident, Illean was taken to Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital. After getting X-rays done, it was determined he had no fractures and he was sent home to heal his bruises.

Mahmoud Illean, Associated Press, Jerusalem
Associated Press photographer Mahmoud Illean had been covering a weekly demonstration where longtime Palestinian residents are battling efforts by Jewish settlers to evict them from their homes when Israeli police attacked him. Above, Illean reacts after being attacked in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Friday, Dec. 17. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via AP

Illean had been covering a weekly demonstration in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where longtime Palestinian residents are battling efforts by Jewish settlers to evict them from their homes. The case, which has drawn global attention and fueled Israeli-Palestinian tensions, has been before Israel's Supreme Court for months.

According to Illean, Friday's demonstration was relatively quiet, with only minor scuffles between Israel's paramilitary border police and protesters.

Video from the scene shows Illean standing in front of a white car when one of the officers approaches him, pushes him backward onto the ground and then proceeds to punch him several times. A second video showed Illean photographing police attacking several other journalists before the officer turned on him.

Israel's border police is a paramilitary force that often is sent to quell riots, and its officers have been targets of Palestinian attackers. At the same time, its officers have frequently been accused of using excessive force against unarmed protesters and journalists.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents some 400 journalists working for international media in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said Friday's incident was the latest in a string of attacks on journalists by the border police.

"The Foreign Press Association strongly condemns this behavior, which raises serious questions about the discipline and professionalism of the officers," the group said. It called for a "serious investigation" and "appropriate disciplinary action against the officer involved."

Illean has worked for the AP for five years. His image of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque last May was named one of Time magazine's top 100 photos of 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mahmoud Illean, Associated Press, ambulance, Jerusalem
Associated Press photographer Mahmoud Illean went to the hospital after being attacked by Israeli police while covering a protest, but did not suffer any fractures and returned home from the hospital several hours later with a bruised face and head and back pain. Above, Illean lies in an ambulance in Jerusalem, Israel, on December 17, 2021. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via AP