Jerusalem24 – Mohammad Hamayel – On Tuesday, July 5th, 2021. My colleague Akil Awawdeh and I were covering a sit-in protest in front of the Palestinian police center in the “al-Balou” area in the city of alBireh. When we arrived, there were about 40 protesters, sitting in silence while one woman – Hind Shraydeh – with her two children chanting “Oh country of freedoms, stop political arrests!”
I was using my phone to broadcast a “facebook live,” when a Palestinian security officer in plains clothes told me that we are not allowed to use any cameras or phones in front of Police centers. I identified myself as a journalist, but he remained determined that we stop the live. I complied with the officer’s request. Despite my compliance a uniformed officer tried (and failed) to snatch my phone from my hands. The air rang with the screams of the children and women there as Palestinian police began dragging people by the hair and clothing. After which, my colleague and I decided to distance ourselves from both the protesters and the Palestinian police.
Moments later, large transports carrying Palestinian “special police” arrived. They told everyone present to vacate the area in10 minutes. Not even two minutes after, the Palestinian police attacked the protesters, physically assaulting and arresting them. My colleague and I decided that we should leave the area, as it did not seem safe.
As we were leaving the scene, I heard someone yell “that’s the guy that was recording everything.” I was about to turn around and a Palestinian officer grabbed me by the neck and punched me in the face knocking me down. They began assaulting me, one officer tore my Press badge off my neck and tossed it aside. Then, I was dragged across the street while they were hitting me. I am not sure if they used any batons, or if it was only punches and kicks. They tore my clothing while dragging me across the street, cursing me, hitting, accusing me of representing “a foreign agenda.” As I was being dragged, I saw my colleague across the street being attacked by Palestinian riot police who were hitting him with their shields.
At one point, a Palestinian police officer lifted me to stand on my feet, then punched me above my eye and then again in my stomach. I fell to the ground, and they began attacking me again. They dragged me into the Police Center, inside, some of the activists from the protest were being attacked. Inside, was a scene of chaos, as Palestinian police officers were yelling at protesters and others were being beaten. Hind, who was panicking that she did not know where here children were began pleading with an officer, that she wants to know where her children are. She asked the officer, “you’re a mother aren’t you?” The officer’s response was, “I am not a loose woman like you who takes her children out at night.” They brought in my colleague, who was brutally beaten, and bleeding. I tried getting up to see if he was ok, then several police officers surrounded me. They were demanding I surrender my phone. I refused to comply, and they began to threaten me with physical violence. An officer in plain clothes approached me and asked me kindly to give up my phone, he said he will send it to the detective’s division of the Palestinian police.
After a while, they took me upstairs to the Mabahith division, where they took my name. I complied and informed them that I am a Palestinian journalist, and took my Palestinian ID card. Not a single officer denounced the assault on the protesters nor the assault against myself.
I was detained for around 5-6 hours, during which they took a statement from me. In it, I mentioned that I am a journalist, who was only there for the coverage, and that I complied with all local laws during the coverage. Then I was asked to sign a pledge not to endanger or attack any Palestinian security personnel, something that I saw was ironic. I went to get my things, however; they could not find my cell phone nor could they find my ID card, I was told to pick them up the next day.
The bruises I sustained across my back, my ribs and arms will heal. The memories of that night will continue to haunt me. Akil, my colleague, hasn’t forgotten. His breathing is still difficult, his injuries far worse. No one was able to sneak out any footage of the repression we faced. Akil and I were the only journalists in the street that night. The one thing the arrests were trying to stop was the truth, but the truth (when carried by brave souls) can never be extinguished.
The next morning, I was on my morning program, Wake Up Palestine. With a shaky voice, I told my dear listeners of the events last night. In addition to that, I sad that no matter what happens the coverage will continue.