A television reporter was attacked Saturday while covering a pro-LGBTQ memorial event for a woman killed in northern Israel.
The ceremony, at an intersection near the Druze town of Yarka, commemorated 18-year-old Sarit Ahmad, who was shot dead Friday in a killing police suspect was linked to her sexual orientation. She was the 99th member of the Arab community killed since the start of 2023, a toll that has since risen to 102.
Ali Mugrabi of Channel 13 news, who was with cameraman Gideon Lev Ari, said the suspects approached them as the event dispersed and were angered they were covering the LGBTQ community. “You’re covering them and giving them a stage. How are you different from them?” Mugrabi quoted them as saying.
The journalist said he tried to explain they were not part of the ceremony and were doing their jobs by reporting on it, “but they stole my phone, broke it and started to beat me on the back and arm until Gideon called for me to jump in the car.”
“I don’t know how we were saved and escaped from there,” added Mugrabi, who was taken to a hospital but was later released.
Lev Ari said that a large number of police were on hand and he urged them to intervene, “but they turned around and left.”
ארגון העיתונאים והעיתונאיות דורש מהמשטרה לאתר ולהעמיד לדין את האחראים לתקיפת כתב חדשות 13 עלי מוגרבי והצלם גדעון לב ארי שהותקפו אתמול במהלך סיקור המחאה בכפר ירכא. אנו מזועזעים ועצובים מהפגיעה בעמיתינו ובחופש העיתונות.
מעדויות שהגיעו לידינו על אף שהיה כח משטרה בקרבת מקום, איש לא… pic.twitter.com/JRZ0NMzLqo
— ארגון העיתונאים והעיתונאיות בישראל (@itonaim) June 11, 2023
Police seemed to dispute that account, issuing a statement that said alleged assailants did not arrive until “after the the forces left.” It also noted Mugrabi’s phone was broken and that pride flags were torn down.
Police said they were searching for suspects and “view acts of violence gravely.”
Channel 13 did not initially appear to report on the attack, with a segment aired Saturday night showing footage from the protest without mentioning Mugrabi or Lev Ari, but later published a story after other outlets picked it up.
The article said the network “views the attack gravely and expects the police to bring the accused to justice.”
“We are shocked and saddened by the harm to our colleague and to freedom of expression,” the Union of Journalists in Israel said.
There have been several other unrelated attacks on Channel 13 correspondents in recent months, including last month when two journalists were attacked with pepper spray as the network faced right-wing criticism for its coverage of fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
In late April, during a massive right-wing rally urging the government to unfreeze its highly controversial judicial overhaul plan, a glass bottle was thrown at Channel 13 reporters covering the demonstration, narrowly missing them.
In late March, ahead of another right-wing rally, a Channel 13 team was attacked by members of the far-right La Familia group, causing reporter Yossi Eli to be hospitalized with a broken rib and suspected damage to his spleen and dealing a head injury to cameraman Avi Cashman.
In January, an angry crowd accosted a Channel 13 crew in Jerusalem, berating the journalists as “leftists” and telling them to leave the area as the reporters covered a terror attack that happened in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood the night before in which seven people were killed.