RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israel's military on Monday ordered a well-known Palestinian journalist to be held for four months without charges or trial, in so-called administrative detention.
The military said Omar Nazzal is being held on suspicion of "unlawful activity" for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small PLO faction that has been labeled a terrorist organization by Israel.
Nazzal's lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, said he believes his client, a leading member of the Palestinian journalists' union, is being targeted because of his political activism. Hassan noted that under the system of administrative detention, the defense is not shown any alleged evidence against a detainee.
Nazzal, 53, has been in Israeli custody since he was seized at an Israeli-run crossing between the West Bank and Jordan last month, while traveling to a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists.
The journalist headed Palestine Today, a TV station affiliated with the militant group Islamic Jihad, for five months, but quit earlier this year shortly before Israel shut it down. He also had ties to the PFLP which in the past was involved in attacks on Israelis.
Hassan denied his client was linked to violence. "This arrest is a political arrest," the lawyer said.
The number of Palestinians in administrative detention reached 627 at the end of February, according to official figures by the Israel Prison Service that are regularly published by the Israeli rights group B'Tselem. Critics say Israel's large-scale use of the practice amounts to a violation of rules of due process.
The number of administrative detainees has doubled since the start of the current round of Israeli-Palestinian violence in September. Since the fall, Palestinians have carried out frequent attacks on Israelis, including stabbings or ramming by cars. The attacks have killed 28 Israelis and two Americans.
On the Palestinian side, some 200 people have been killed by Israeli fire — the vast majority in what Israel says were attacks or attempted attacks. Critics say Israeli security forces and civilians often used lethal force unnecessarily.
In a fatal shooting last week, 24-year-old Maram Taha and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim were shot and killed at a busy West Bank crossing. Maram Taha was the mother of two girls, four and five years old.
Israeli police alleged at the time that the Taha siblings ignored calls to halt and that the woman threw a knife at a policeman before being shot dead. The police statement did not explain why lethal force was used and why Ibrahim Taha was killed. Two knives were found on the teen, but only after the shooting.
Police have said they will not release security camera footage of the incident until an investigation is completed, even though they have in the past made such images public within hours of stabbings.
Police initially said Israeli troops were involved in firing the fatal shots, but on Monday, authorities said that private security guards shot the siblings. Police officers at the scene acted "according to regulations," including firing warning shots in the air, the police said.
The siblings' family and Palestinian witnesses have disputed the police account, saying the siblings were some 20 meters (yards) away from security forces and could have been stopped without deadly force.
Later, Monday night Israeli police said a 60 year-old-man was evacuated to hospital for treatment after he was stabbed in Jerusalem's old city in what it said was likely a Palestinian attack.