Reuters Bureau Chief Briefly Detained by Hamas: They Asked Me ‘Polite Questions’

TEL AVIV – Luke Baker,  bureau chief for Reuters in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, reports that he was briefly detained and questioned on Thursday by Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip.

Baker writes that he was subjected to “polite questions” about the reasons for his stay in Gaza. He said he was “given coffee and then tea.”  He stressed that he was “not escorted by anyone with guns” and was “never accused of anything.”

Baker sent out the following tweets describing the saga:

Baker did not immediately respond to a Breitbart Jerusalem inquiry about which “polite questions” Hamas asked him.

Baker also serves as chairman of the Foreign Press Association, or FPA, representing the international media working in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Baker’s FPA group yesterday arranged a press conference at Gaza’s Roots hotel where they were addressed by senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar.

Baker co-authored a Reuters article on the event published on Thursday titled, “Hamas not seeking a war with Israel, says top official.” The piece, published on Reuters’ website, reports that al-Zahar was “speaking to members of the Foreign Press Association in Gaza,” but the article does not disclose that Baker is the chairman of the association.

This reporter asked Baker the following questions via Twitter:

While Baker went to great lengths to describe his brief detention by Hamas in seemingly positive terms, his FPA protested Israel’s brief detention and questioning earlier this month of the Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, William Booth, in the “strongest possible terms.”

As Breitbart Jerusalem reported at the time, Booth was briefly detained and questioned by authorities on February 16 while he was covering events just outside the Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City and the scene of numerous recent terrorist attacks.

Speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem at the time, National Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the brief incident, explaining that Booth was not suspected of any wrongdoing.

According to Rosenfeld, the Jerusalem police had deployed reinforcements to the Damascus Gate after receiving information that Arab radicals were planning a protest or disruptive action in the highly sensitive spot. The action was aimed at security forces and was intended to be utilized for propaganda purposes.

Rosenfeld told Breitbart Jerusalem that Booth was removed from the area, questioned, and then immediately released.  He said others in and around the location were also questioned.

The New York Times further reported on the Booth incident:

The Foreign Ministry later issued a statement calling the episode “regrettable” and praising Mr. Booth’s work, and the Government Press Office called the episode “an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for the Post, said in an email that Mr. Booth had been detained by the Israel border police for about 30 minutes. “While Booth has now been released,” she said, “we regard the detention of any of our journalists anywhere as extremely troubling.”

A police spokeswoman, Luba Samri, said in a statement: “A passer-by complained that he witnessed a number of people intending to stage a provocative situation and disturbances by young Arabs toward policemen responsible for security in the area, apparently for propaganda purposes. In view of the complaint, the policemen detained a number of suspects in order to clarify the facts in a sensitive and discreet manner at the nearby police facility.”

She added: “When the details of the incident were clarified and no suspicion at all of criminal activity was raised, the detainees were released immediately by the investigating officer without any other steps taken in the matter.”

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “This is a regrettable incident, casting an unnecessary shadow over the work of an excellent journalist. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will ask the police for the necessary clarifications.”

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.


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