HRW accuses Israeli police of using excessive force during May unrest

AFP , Tuesday 14 Dec 2021

Human Rights Watch accused Israeli police on Tuesday of using "excessive force" against Arab protesters in the mixed city of Lod during May unrest, while treating Jewish rioters more favorably.

Israeli airstrike on Gaza
File Photo: A blast from an Israeli airstrike on a building in Gaza City throws dust and debris on May 13, 2021. AP

The violence in Lod, in central Israel, came as tensions surged in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, where Palestinian protesters facing eviction clashed with security forces, and fighting flared between Israel occupation troops and Hamas.

The rioting in Lod between May 10 and May 14 was carried out by both Arab and Jewish residents, according to multiple officials and witnesses, with both Jewish and Muslim places of worship vandalised.

But HRW said: "The police appeared to act half-heartedly and unevenly to violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel committed by Jewish ultra-nationalists."

The group's report cited instances where police "failed to act in a timely manner to protect Palestinian residents of Lod" from violent Jewish groups.

It also cited instances in which "Israeli law enforcement agencies used excessive force to disperse peaceful protests by Palestinians."

Israeli police rejected allegations of unfair treatment, telling AFP that officers "worked day and night during the riots that took place in Lod last May to restore peace and security for the inhabitants of the city".

Investigations and arrests linked to the unrest were carried out "regardless of the religion or identity of the perpetrators," a police spokesperson said.

Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of committing crimes of apartheid against Palestinians in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and inside Israel.

Israel firmly rejects those allegations and accuses the group of having a bias against the Jewish state.

HRW's Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, was expelled by Israel in 2019 over allegations that he previously supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to isolate Israel over what it calls the mistreatment of Palestinians.

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