Last update - 07:16 11/07/2008
Israel denies Gaza journalist claims of abuse at West Bank crossing
By The Associated Press
A Gaza journalist and the government offered sharply conflicting versions Thursday of what happened to him at an Israeli border crossing two
Mohammed Omer said he was forced to strip naked at gunpoint during questioning and then was not given medical attention for more than an hour after he collapsed. Israeli officials denied he was threatened with a gun and insisted he was treated fairly at all times.
Omer's allegations about his treatment at the Allenby Bridge crossing also made diplomatic ripples. The Dutch Foreign Ministry said the Israeli government had been asked for clarifications because Dutch diplomats served as Omer's escort for part of his journey.
Palestinians have long complained about rough treatment at Allenby. However, Omer's allegation of being forced to strip naked appeared unusual.
Israel's Government Press Office said in a statement that Omer was never subjected to physical or mental abuse. It said his account was full of contradictions and was without foundation.
Omer, 24, claims he was mistreated June 26 after he entered the Allenby crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. A Gaza resident who writes for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, the New Statesman and other publications, Omer was en route back home following a three-week European tour that included receiving a journalism prize in London.
Omer said that after waiting 90 minutes at Israeli passport control, he was taken to a back area, where he waited again before a Shin Bet security agent and a policeman brought in his luggage and searched item by item.
At one point, Omer claimed, the policeman ordered him to strip naked. Omer said in a 10-page statement that after he refused repeatedly, the officer unholstered his weapon, "pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear."
Omer said he was later allowed to get dressed again, but then was insulted and ridiculed by Israel agents, to the point of tears. He said he eventually vomited and fainted.
He claims that when he came to, an Israeli scratched his face deeply under his eyes, then someone gouged his head, clawed at his eyes and tore his skin. An Israeli pressed his neck to the floor with a boot, he charges, saying he suffered beating, scratching and assaults before Israelis summoned an ambulance that took him to a hospital in Jericho.
Dr. Diaa Husseini, who examined Omer at the hospital, said the journalist had no signs of physical injury. He said Omer had suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by emotional stress and was given stomach medication and released after two hours.
The government confirmed Omer's luggage was searched. It also said he was required to undergo a body search. It said the search took several minutes and was conducted according to the relevant regulations, but did not explain what those rules are.
Omer's claim that he was threatened at gunpoint is baseless, the statement said.
The Israeli paramedic who attended to Omer found no physical reason for his collapse, the Government Press Office said, adding that Omer's behavior raises doubts as to the sincerity of the situation.