Israeli troops seize, blindfold naked journalists in bid to ‘silence’ Gaza

Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Ismail al-Ghoul
Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Ismail al-Ghoul . . . escaped after beating and 12 hours' detention "in cold conditions, naked and blindfolded.” Image AJ screenshot APR

Pacific Media Watch

Ismail al-Ghoul, an Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent who was held for 12 hours at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, says Israeli forces rounded up Palestinian journalists at the facility and made them kneel on the ground for hours, while naked and blindfolded.

“The occupation forces handcuffed and blindfolded us for about 12 hours from the early morning to the afternoon, until the arrival of Israeli military intelligence units,” he said, according to reports by Al Jazeera.

“They interrogated the journalists that work at this location. We were left in the room we were kept in, where we stayed for several hours, in cold conditions, naked and blindfolded.”

Al-Ghoul, who was also reported as having been “severely beaten”, said he had heard that some of his colleagues had been released but he did not have enough information on their whereabouts.

The journalists were seized in a fresh attack on al-Shifa hospital after the medical facility had been previously targeted last November. The hospital has been sheltering thousands of Gazans taking cover from the five-month war.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the detention of al-Ghoul and his team.

“Journalists play an essential role in a war. They are the eyes and the ears that we need to document what’s happening and with every journalist killed, with every journalist arrested, our ability to understand what’s happening in Gaza diminishes significantly,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive officer of the CPJ.

UN condemnation
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s spokesperson Farhan Haq also condemned the detention of the journalists.

Replying to questions from Al Jazeera correspondent Biesan Abu Kwaik, Haq said: “We stand against any harassment of journalists anywhere in the world. And certainly we do so in this instance.

“Our sympathies go to your colleague as well as to all the other journalists who suffered from any violence during the course of this incident.”

The Plight of Palestinian Prisoners– documentary.   Video: Al Jazeera

Another Al Jazeera Arabic journalist, Usaid Siddiqui, said Ismail al-Ghoul was just one of many journalists in Gaza targeted by Israel

“After speaking to him, I can say he is doing fine,” Siddiqui said.

How Al Jazeera reported the Israeli arrest of journalist Ismail al-Ghoul
How Al Jazeera reported the Israeli arrest of journalist Ismail al-Ghoul at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. Image: AJ screenshot APR

“He had been blindfolded and handcuffed for 12 hours [by Israeli forces] and was taken away for interrogation.

“Journalists are one of the main focuses of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

“Ismail has been reporting on Israeli attacks in Gaza since day one of the fighting.

“He has been able to continue reporting despite all the ongoing efforts by the Israeli military to silence the narrative of Palestinians around the world.”

Stormed at dawn
When interviewed by Al Jazeera after his release, al-Ghoul said Israeli forces had stormed al-Shifa Hospital at dawn during intense fighting.

“They started by destroying media equipment and arresting journalists gathered in a room used by media teams,” he said.

“The journalists were stripped of their clothes and were arrested and placed in a room inside the medical compound. They were forced to lie on their stomachs as they were blindfolded and their hands tied.”

Al-Ghoul said Israeli soldiers would open fire to “scare us if there was any movement”.

After about 12 hours, they were taken for interrogation.

Following waiting in line for investigation, an elderly man had been released from inside the hospital and he needed help to leave the compound.

The journalist said he had volunteered to help the man and was able to accompany him until they both got out the compound and he was free.

Al-Ghoul later heard that some of his colleagues had been released but said he did not have enough information about where they were.

Israel wants ‘no truth-tellers’
Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories said Israeli authorities were preventing entry of a top UN official into the Gaza Strip to “hide their violations of international law”.

“The highest number of people ever recorded as facing human-made famine, along with mass killings, constant harm and creation of conditions that gut life of humanity has a name: Genocide,” Francesca Albanese said in a post on X.

“Israel wants no witnesses, no truth-tellers,” she said, referencing Israel’s blocking of Phillipe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, from entering Gaza.

Pacific Media Watch has compiled this media freedom report from Al Jazeera and other news services.

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