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Gaza rights groups question police use of force

Feb. 5, 2013 4:32 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 7, 2013 6:54 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Human rights groups in the Gaza Strip are calling for authorities to investigate police use of force against civilians after the death of a suspected drug trafficker last week.

Atiya Suleiman Qishta, 41, was killed on Saturday after he was shot in the back by an anti-drug unit of the Gaza police force.

Police sources told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that eight officers laid an ambush for the car as part of an attempted drug bust, but when Qishta stepped out of the vehicle he refused police orders to stop and attempted to flee.

In response, a police official fired a number of bullets at him, PCHR said.

A police investigation has been opened, but PCHR is calling for the public prosecutor to probe the death, and the government to restrict police use of firearms.

"Law enforcement officials are not entitled to fire at people unless their lives or the lives of people who are mandated to protect are at risk, according to international standards," the group said.

"There have been increasing casualties as a result of the misuse of weapons by security officers in Gaza," a PCHR statement continued.

Another group, the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, noted that Qishta's death came after two other incidents where firearms were used during law enforcement operations.

Police and an anti-narcotics officer opened fire on a minivan in Rafah on Jan. 23 during a police chase, wounding two men in a nearby supermarket.

Waleed Anwar Abu Al-Ineen, 20, sustained a bullet wound in the abdomen and Jihad Abdullah Abu Zbeeda, 43, sustained a bullet wound in the arm, al-Mezan said.

A week earlier, a man was wounded in the leg during a gunfight in Rafah after police intervened in a dispute between plainclothes officers and civilians, the group said.

The incident, on Jan. 17, started when the man refused to help police drive a confiscated motorcycle, escalating into a gunfight with police, al-Mezan said.

The rights group noted that under Palestinian criminal law, police should detain individuals using reasonable and necessary force, and called for justice when police officers break the law.
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