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Rights group: Gaza police abuse unity revelers

April 28, 2011 5:37 P.M. (Updated: April 29, 2011 2:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A spontaneous rally in Gaza City supporting progress towards reconciliation was violently disbursed by Gaza police on Wednesday evening, a Gaza-based rights group said Thursday.

Five people were arrested at the city's Square of the Unknown Soldier and later released, according to a report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which said rally-participants were insulted and beaten by police officers, some of who were wearing civilian clothing.

Around 100 people gathered to celebrate reports from Cairo hours earlier that Hamas and Fatah had reached an "understanding" on ending the division between Gaza and West Bank administrations, London-daily The Guardian reported.

The rights body said that among those detained were Jamal Farawana, a defender of prisoners’ rights, and Talal Abi Zarifa, a leader of the leftist party, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who were transferred to police investigation headquarters at the Ansar security compound in the west of Gaza City, and held for 30 minutes before release, but not interrogated.

Farawana was violently beaten, the statement said.

Thirty minutes after the 8 p.m. rally began, four police vehicles arrived at the square, bringing "many" officers who then began to abuse those gathered, PCHR said its investigations showed.

Also Thursday, Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights welcomed the reports of a unity deal, saying in a statement that it "hopes that the efforts would continue to ensure its evolution into full reconciliation."

The center stressed the importance of "engaging Palestinian political powers and civil society, as well as on the full respect of the rule of law and human rights."

The statement called on "Palestinian political powers and international community to exert more efforts to support the full achievement of the Palestinian reconciliation."

Referring to efforts to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, the rights organization stated, "The end of the Palestinian internal split will push forward the Palestinian cause internationally."
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