Jerusalem – Israeli police and intelligence forces raided the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem early on Monday morning, shutting down in advance a Palestinian Media Center planned in advance of the pope’s visit to Jerusalem.
The Israelis handed the management of the hotel an order signed by the Israeli internal security minister closing off a conference room that had been planned to be used as a media center, offering visiting journalists resources to cover the pope’s visit.
Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Jerusalem later on Monday on his first visit to the Holy Land. Most of the Jerusalem holy sites the pontiff will visit are in East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed. The international community does not recognize Israeli control over the area.
The director of the Media Center, Ahmad Ar-Ruweidi, said they have assigned an attorney to follow up on the case, saying the Israeli raid was “illegal,” and signaled an intensification of Israel’s prohibition of Palestinian civil society in Jerusalem.
He stressed that the media center was a temporary installation, not a permanent institution.
The Palestinian Media Center commenced its activities on Sunday with two press conferences organized in cooperation with politicians and religious figures during which they criticized Israeli policies ahead of the papal visit.
For its part, the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights condemned the shutting down of the media center as a violation of press freedom and a restriction on civil activities.
The Jerusalem Center’s director, Ziad Al-Hammouri called on the Israeli authorities to reverse the order. source
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