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Israel used ‘abusive policing’ against Palestinians in Lod during May unrest: HRW

Human Rights Watch calls on the UN to investigate the discriminatory practices used by Israeli police against peaceful protesters in the city of Lod
Friends and relatives of Moussa Hassuna, a Palestinian resident of Lod who was shot by an Israeli ultra-nationalist in May, protest at a decision to close the case against his suspected killers, on 10 November 2021 (AFP)

Israeli police used excessive force against Palestinians peacefully protesting against plans to forcibly remove dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for settlers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Tuesday. 

Backed by Israeli police, Jewish settlers and far-right groups attacked and intimidated Palestinians in May in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, whose residents were facing imminent evictions. 

As violence escalated in Jerusalem, clashes broke out in Lod, or Lydd as it is known to Palestinians, on 11 May, when Palestinians protested outside the Great Omari Mosque against the evictions. Confrontations in the city then erupted between Palestinian residents of Israel and Jewish Israelis, and a Palestinian man, Moussa Hassuna, was shot dead.

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The following day, Israeli ultra-nationalists, some armed, roamed the streets of Lod, with mobs attacking the mosque ahead of a night curfew, which had been declared the previous day.

Wafa, the Palestinian Authority news agency, estimated at the time that Israel had carried out around 600 arrests in the previous few weeks, the majority in Lod, Jerusalem and Ramleh.

Between July and October, HRW conducted interviews with residents, analysed video clips posted on social media, and reviewed reports of timelines, and concluded that Israeli authorities had discriminated against Palestinians.

In addition to the violent dispersal of protests, police and armed forces had beaten up and fired live ammunition on journalists covering the events unfolding across Israel.

"The police response in Lod took place amid systematic discrimination that the Israeli government practices against Palestinian citizens of Israel in many other aspects of their lives," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at HRW.

"Israeli authorities responded to the May events in Lod by forcibly dispersing Palestinians protesting peacefully, while using inflammatory rhetoric and failing to act even-handedly as Jewish ultra-nationalists attacked Palestinians.

"This apparent discriminatory response underscores the reality that the Israeli state apparatus privileges Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, wherever they live and irrespective of their legal status."

HRW called on the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory to investigate the apparently discriminatory practices of Israeli law enforcement, and whether or not "inflammatory comments" by senior Israeli officials had instigated violence.

"Human Rights Watch has found that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution, based on an Israeli government policy to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians wherever they live, and grave abuses against Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian Territory," the report stated.

"The crime of apartheid is committed when these elements come together."

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