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Israeli police detain dozens of Palestinians for social media ‘incitement’

A rights group says the crackdown is an 'unlawful' attack on freedom of expression and has been carried out using 'brute force'
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Adam Julani, 16, who was killed by Israeli soldiers near Qalandia refugee camp, during his funeral in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, 9 October 2023 (AP)

Israeli authorities have detained dozens of Palestinians in recent days over online posts seen as inflammatory, according to a statement by Israeli police and a Palestinian rights group.

The crackdown comes as the Israeli aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip continues for the 11th day following a surprise attack by Hamas on southern Israel on 7 October.

The Israeli raids have killed at least 2,808 civilians, including 853 children, 936 women, 37 doctors and paramedics, and 13 journalists.

Meanwhile, at least 61 Palestinians, including 18 children, were killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the same period.

The death toll in Israel has reached at least 1,300 people, including combatants and civilians, while 3,400 have been wounded.

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At least 230 Israeli hostages have been confirmed held in Gaza since the assault. 

Dozens arrested

A statement by the Israeli police on Tuesday said an indictment is underway for 63 people arrested last week "on suspicion of the offenses of incitement, identification and support for terrorism".

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Meanwhile, the rights group Adalah, which advocates for Arab rights in Israel, told Middle East Eye on Tuesday that the Israeli government has rounded up dozens of Palestinians in recent days in connection with social media posts expressing sympathy for the victims of Israeli air strikes.

Those arrested include the popular Palestinian folk singer Dalal Abu Amneh, whose last two social media posts included links to charities working in Gaza and posts saying “Lord, grant me relief and mercy” and “There’s no victor except God".

"We are receiving reports of unlawful arrests, often carried out with brutal force in the middle of the night, and without proper legal justification, and solely on the basis of social media posts in the majority of cases, some just for expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, or even for sharing verses from the Quran," Adalah said.

"These arrests, as well as steps by Israeli universities and colleges to suspend, expel, or initiate disciplinary proceedings against Palestinian students for social media posts, and by workplaces to justify suspensions or terminations, are all part of a harsh crackdown on the freedom of legitimate expression by Palestinian citizens of Israel," it added.

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On Monday, Middle East Eye reported that Palestinian students in Israel are being targeted by officials as well as Zionist vigilante groups.

Students suspected of harbouring sympathies for the residents of Gaza or opinions critical of Israeli policy are being reported to their faculties and suspended in many cases.

Dozens of students at universities across the country have also been sent official emails from their dean suspending their studies on the grounds of "supporting terrorism" or "incitement to terrorism", based on their social media activity.

Palestinian and Jewish academics who have defended their freedom of expression have also been targeted.

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