Foreign Min: Arrest of WaPo journalist regrettable

Israeli government, police clarify brief detention of Washington Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief was result of 'misunderstanding.'

Ari Soffer ,

Border police in Jerusalem (file)
Border police in Jerusalem (file)
Hadas Parush/Flash90

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has described the brief detention of a senior Washington Post correspondent in Jerusalem earlier Tuesday as "a regrettable incident."

William Booth was briefly detained by police near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City, apparently after a bystander had accused him of paying Arabs to stage a disturbance. 

A left-wing activist was reportedly detained at the same time as Booth. Both were released shortly after without charge.

Officials are now saying that the entire incident was likely the result of a "misunderstanding" by jumpy police officers, at a site commonly targeted by Palestinian Arab terrorists.

Damascus gate has seen frequent stabbing attacks - sometimes under the cover of wider violent "protests" - including an attempted attack that same morning.

In response to the incident, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon lamented the "regrettable incident, casting an unnecessary shadow over the work of an excellent journalist."

Nahshon added that his office would be seeking "the necessary clarifications" from the police.

An earlier statement by the Foreign Ministry had similarly suggested the arrest was the result of a "misunderstanding."

Jerusalem Police spokeswoman Luba Samri also responded to the arrest.

"A passer-by complained that he saw a number of people intending to stage a provocation and disruption of order of young Arabs aimed at police officers in the area, allegedly for propaganda purposes," Samri said.

"In light of the complaint, officers detained a number of suspects to clarify the facts in a discreet and sensitive manner at a nearby police facility," she said, stressing Booth was released shortly after.