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Reuters journalists: Israeli troops assaulted us, forced us to strip in street

Dozens of Palestinians faced off with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron. The confrontation came after the shooting death of a 17-year-old by Israel's paramilitary border police force. NBCNews.com's Alex Witt reports.

HEBRON, West Bank -- Israeli soldiers have been accused of punching two Reuters cameramen and forcing them to strip in the street, before letting off a tear gas canister in front of them, leaving one of them needing hospital treatment.

Israel's military said Thursday it took the allegations seriously. 

"The regional brigade commander was ordered to open an investigation," Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said in an email.

Yousri Al Jamal and Ma'amoun Wazwaz said a foot patrol stopped them on Wednesday in the heart of Hebron as they were driving to a nearby checkpoint where a Palestinian teenager had just been shot dead by an Israeli border guard.

Their car was clearly marked "TV" and they were both wearing blue flak jackets with "Press" emblazoned on the front.

The soldiers forced them to leave the vehicle and punched them, striking them with the butts of their guns. They accused the journalists of working for an Israeli NGO, B'Tselem, which documents human rights violations in the occupied West Bank, the Reuters cameramen said.


Locals say B'Tselem has given a number of Palestinians video cameras so they can film soldiers and settlers who live in this divided city. The NGO was not immediately available for comment.

The soldiers did not let the men produce their official ID papers and forced them to strip down to their underwear, making them kneel on the road with their hands behind their heads, the cameramen said.

Two other Palestinian journalists working for local news organizations, including a satellite television station affiliated to the Islamist group Hamas, were also stopped and forced to the ground.

One of the soldiers then dropped a tear gas canister between the men and the IDF patrol ran away, according to the cameramen. The four journalists scrambled clear and Jamal and Wazwaz got to their car, which had rapidly filled up with tear gas, they said.

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They tried to drive away, but said they only got around 200 meters before they had to stop and exit the vehicle because of the gas. The soldiers then fired more tear gas in their direction, the cameramen said.

Wazwaz was overcome by the fumes and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He was released later the same night.

'Mistreatment'
The Israeli soldiers allegedly took two gas masks and a video camera from their car. The undamaged camera was later found abandoned further up the road, according to the Reuters journalists.

"We deplore the mistreatment of our journalists and have registered our extreme dismay with the Israeli military authorities," said Stephen J. Adler, editor-in-chief of Reuters News.

Paul Danahar, the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, said on Twitter that the organization would soon issue a statement on the attack.

There “must be a limit (on) how many times (the) IDF can say this stuff is usual behavior,” he wrote.

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Tensions have been running particularly high in Hebron in the past week following repeated clashes between stone-throwing youths and soldiers.

Muhammad al-Salameh, 17, was shot dead close to his house in the heart of Hebron on Wednesday evening after an altercation with border guards at a nearby checkpoint. Israeli police said he had brandished a gun, which later proved to be a toy gun.

Some 800 Jewish settlers live among 30,000 Palestinians in the parts of the old city that are under Israeli control.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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