October 12, 2009

Report: Israeli police unit disguised as medics

October 12, 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an – While Israel often accuses Palestinians of misusing ambulances as cover for attacks, a report from the country’s second-largest newspaper suggests Israel may want to first clean up its own house before accusing others.

In its special magazine supplement, the Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv exposed an undercover unit created by Israeli police that disguises its operatives as medics, Bedouins, ultra-Orthodox Jews, or even Israeli civilians faking car trouble.

According to the report, the special unit is responsible for targeting Palestinians listed on Israel’s long “wanted” list.

Seventeen policemen form the unit, which was created at the end of July, described by Ma’ariv as the first of its kind. The team is reportedly most often deployed in Bedouin residential centers in the Negev, where it boasts 30-40 arrests each month from all over Israel.

The head of the special unit, Yousi Makhluf, proudly explained that its members “are the best men, with more experience, very high investigative intelligence experience, speak Arabic, and have good relations with Bedouins.”

“There are no geographical borders that limit the work of the unit, which works in Ramle, Haifa, Ashdod…” he added. “A number of [its members] have served in the army’s undercover unit and worked in the West Bank and Gaza, where they were trained in the most advanced methods of disguise and blending in.”

Meanwhile, a nongovernmental media organization expressed concern on Saturday about reports that undercover Israeli operatives were posing as photojournalists during Palestinian demonstrations against Israeli policies in Jerusalem.

In a statement, Awad Awad, a photojournalist working with the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), said that concerns arose from reports the organization received from residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood Ras Al-Amoud.

Awad quoted residents saying they saw Israeli agents carrying cameras and disguised as press photographers on Thursday and Friday. The same agents, they, arrested young men who participated in the demonstration.

Speaking to Ma’an on Saturday, residents of the area reported identical incidents. Witnesses said they saw Israelis dressed as photographers seize several young male protesters.

Ras Al-Amoud saw some of the fiercest clashes between stone-throwing protesters and Israeli riot police. Reported intrusions by Israeli settlers into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, have sparked over a week of demonstrations.

The next day, a photo published on the website of The New York Times also showed plainclothes Israeli officers seizing a Palestinian man during a demonstration in East Jerusalem.

In its statement, MADA warned that Israeli operatives disguising themselves as photographers could endanger the lives of actual photojournalists.

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