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Israeli police commit 'catalogue of violations' against Palestinians, Amnesty says

Rights group documents more than 20 cases of Israeli police violence towards Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank
Israeli security forces detain a man at the entrance of Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque on 21 May 2021
Israeli security forces detain a man at the entrance of Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque on 21 May 2021 (AFP)

Amnesty International has accused Israeli police of carrying out a "catalogue of violations" against Palestinians across Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, including unlawful force against peaceful protesters, sweeping mass arrests, and subjecting detainees to torture and other ill-treatment.

The rights group reported on Thursday that Israeli police failed to protect Palestinians from premeditated attacks by Israeli settlers.

"Police have an obligation to protect all people under Israel's control, whether they are Jewish or Palestinian. Instead, the vast majority arrested in the police crackdown following the outbreak of inter-communal violence were Palestinian," said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty's Middle East deputy director.

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"This discriminatory crackdown was orchestrated as an act of retaliation and intimidation to crush pro-Palestinian demonstrations and silence those who speak out to condemn Israel's institutionalised discrimination and systemic oppression of Palestinians."

Amnesty researchers documented more than 20 cases, verified through 45 videos and other forms of digital media, of Israeli police violence since early May, when protests against the forced eviction of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah began.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured in the police crackdown, and a 17-year-old boy and 25-year-old man were both shot dead. Mostly peaceful demonstrations have taken place in Israeli cities and East Jerusalem over the last several weeks.

More than 2,100 people – 90 percent of them Palestinian – have been arrested, most for allegedly insulting or assaulting a police officer or taking part in an illegal gathering, while Israeli settlers have been largely able to organise freely.

"The few Jewish citizens of Israel arrested were dealt with more leniently. Jewish supremacists also continue to organise demonstrations while Palestinians face repression," said Higazi.

On Monday, more than 20 Palestinians were injured during a raid by Israeli forces on Sheikh Jarrah.

Torture of detainees

On at least two occasions in Haifa and Nazareth, Amnesty reported there was evidence of police attacking groups of unarmed Palestinian protesters without provocation.

An incident in which an Israeli police officer shot a 15-year-old girl in the back outside her Sheikh Jarrah home was captured on video, as was another incident where a protester was shot in the face while using his phone to film police from a balcony in Jaffa.

The rights group also documented the torture of detainees who were tied up, beaten and deprived of sleep at a police station in Nazareth and at the Kishon detention centre.

"There are always periods where the institutionalised structural violence and discrimination against Palestinians becomes severe, but this is the worst it has been in a long time. There is a complete disregard for civilian life," Higazi said.

On Thursday, news emerged that Nizar Banat, a leading Palestinian activist and critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), died during an arrest by Palestinian security forces in the city of Hebron. The arrest took place amid an ongoing security crackdown by the PA on political opposition and social media users in the West Bank.

His death was met with anger on the streets of the West Bank, as well as criticism from human rights organisations and Palestinian factions which have called for an independent investigation.

Hundreds of Palestinians were demonstrating in Ramallah on Thursday afternoon, shouting "Leave, leave Abbas" and "The people want the downfall of the regime," with security forces beating protesters with batons and firing tear gas.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, his family said he had been severely beaten. In a statement, Governor of Hebron Jibreen al-Bakri said that Banat's "health deteriorated during the arrest".