Israel detains Palestinian journalists for 'illegal activity' in Jerusalem

Israel claims the city as its own, while the Palestinians seek its eastern sector as its future capital

Tourists look at the Old City of Jerusalem and its Dome of the Rock mosque from the Mount of Olives on December 6, 2019.  / AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND
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Israeli authorities detained four journalists from the official television station of the Palestinian Authority that operates limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

The journalists were capturing footage outside the Old City, the section of Jerusalem that hosts some of the holiest sites in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Police confiscated their equipment and detained them, according to official PA news agency Wafa.

The journalists with the daily "Good Morning Jerusalem" program were held for four hours at a police station in Jerusalem and later released, said Mohammad Barghouti, Palestine TV's general manager for news.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said: "The journalists were detained in connection with illegal activity by (the) Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem."

Israel forbids any official activity in Jerusalem by the Western-backed PA, saying it breaches Israel's sovereignty over the city and violates interim peace agreements.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as capital of a future state. Israel annexed the area after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war and says the entire city is its eternal and indivisible capital.

In November, Israel ordered the closure of Palestine TV's Jerusalem office for six months on the grounds that it was planning to stage activities for the PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank adjacent to Jerusalem.

An office of the PA's education ministry in Jerusalem was also given a six-month closure notice in November, which Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said at the time was "part of a firm policy against any attempt by the (PA) to violate our sovereignty in the capital".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the journalists' detention as "part of the Israeli government's scheme to entrench Israeli control over the occupied city of Jerusalem and its holy sites."

The last round of peace talks between the two sides broke down in 2014. Palestinians have boycotted U.S. President Donald Trump's mediation efforts, partly over his recognition in 2017 of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.