Israeli police have used force against peaceful Palestinian protesters, carried out sweeping mass arrests, and subjected detainees to torture and abuse during and since last month's hostilities between Israel and Gaza, Amnesty International has said.
In a report published on its website, the human rights lobby group says Israeli police "have also failed to protect Palestinian citizens of Israel from pre-meditated attacks from armed Jewish supremacists, even when plans were publicised in advance and police knew or should have known of them".
Amnesty researchers interviewed 11 witnesses and say they verified 45 videos and other forms of digital material to document more than 20 cases of Israeli police violations between May 9th and June 12th. “Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured in the crackdown and a 17-year old boy was shot dead,” Amnesty wrote.
Saleh Higazi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the evidence compiled "paints a damning picture of discrimination and ruthless excessive force against Palestinians in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem".
“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 intercommunal violence were Palestinian. The few Jewish citizens of Israel arrested were dealt with more leniently,” he said.
Two Israeli official spokesmen did not respond to requests by The Irish Times for comment on the Amnesty report.
Amnesty cited Mossawa, a Palestinian rights group, which said that 2,150 Palestinians had been arrested – 90 per cent of them citizens of Israel and East Jerusalem residents – and 184 indictments had been lodged against 285 defendants. Palestinian rights group Adalah said only 30 Jewish citizens of Israel had been indicted by May 27th.
Protests erupted in early May against Israeli settler evictions of East Jerusalem Palestinians from homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and Israeli police disruptions of prayers in al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan. On May 10th Hamas replied by firing rockets into Israel, which responded with bombardment. During the exchanges 256 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel died.
Mr Higazi said Palestinians also "face a culture of increasing repression" from the Palestinian Authority in enclaves it administers in the occupied West Bank.
Over the past four days, police have used tear gas, stun grenades and bullets to prevent Palestinians from reaching president Mahmoud Abbas's headquarters in Ramallah to call for his resignation over the death in custody of prominent activist Nizar Banat.
Journalists covering the demonstrations have been attacked and wounded. A long-standing critic of the authority, Mr Banat (43) had recently castigated Mr Abbas’s cancellation of repeatedly postponed Palestinian elections set for this year, and the handling of vaccinations.
Another activist, Issa Amro, was also briefly detained.