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Israeli security forces posing as journalists endanger press

An Israeli commando accused of impersonating Israeli journalists to arrest a student on a university campus could make reporters' jobs harder and more dangerous on both sides of the conflict.
An Israeli soldier guards one of the entrances of Bir Zeit University near Ramallah during an operation in search for members of Islamist Hamas movement's on June 19, 2014. Israeli troops arrested some 30 Palestinians in the West Bank overnight as they ramped up a massive search for three teenagers believed kidnapped by Hamas, the army said.  AFP PHOTO/ ABBAS MOMANI        (Photo credit should read ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

An undercover unit of the Israel Border Police raided the Bir Zeit University campus in the West Bank on March 7 and arrested Omar Al-Kiswani, head of the student council. Al-Kiswani also heads the Hamas-affiliated Al-Wafa Al-Islamiya faction that won the student council elections in 2015. According to witnesses, the Israeli operatives passed themselves off as journalists to trap al-Kiswani. In a video of the event likely shot by a student, four men in civilian clothing are seen wrestling someone to the ground, brandishing guns and dragging him away while uniformed armed Israeli troops wait outside the campus fence.

The reason for sending in a special ops unit and endangering its members to arrest al-Kiswani is not known, but the operation carried out in broad daylight in front of dozens of students drew condemnation by the Union of Journalists in Israel. Chairman Yair Tarchitsky told Al-Monitor that by posing as journalists, the soldiers endangered real journalists doing important work in the field. “The union strongly condemns the abuse of the journalism profession and views it as undermining democratic principles,” he said. “It’s like using ambulances to conduct military operations.”

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