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Israeli police assault journalists, detain 8 Palestinians at funeral in Jaffa

July 30, 2017 10:50 A.M. (Updated: July 30, 2017 9:05 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli police assaulted Israeli journalists and detained eight Palestinian citizens of Israel, six of them minors, as hundreds participated in a funeral march Saturday night in Jaffa city in southern Israel for 22-year-old Mahdi al-Saadi, who was shot dead by police early Saturday morning.

Mourners in the Palestinian-majority town condemned what they said was an unjustified killing. According to Israeli police, the man was suspected of taking part in a criminally motivated shooting and was shot dead, alongside another who was shot and injured, in a police chase as the two allegedly fled on motorcycles.

However, locals argued that al-Saadi posed no threat to Israeli police when he was fatally shot and that he could have been detained without using lethal force.

The incident sparked major street protests in Jaffa against against police brutality and racial profiling Saturday afternoon, triggering clashes with Israeli police. An atmosphere of tension and outrage prevailed in the city during the funeral march and late into the night.

Mourners marched from al-Saadi’s home to the local mosque and ended at the city’s cemetery, as Israeli police closed several streets and were heavily deployed in the area.

During the funeral procession, Israel’s Channel 2 News reporter Gilad Shalmor and photographer Gal Zeitman were beaten and their equipment was destroyed by Israeli police as they were trying to cover the event, according to Israeli news site Ynet.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that following the funeral, a group of youths gathered in different locations in the city, and set parked cars and trash cans on fire, closing off a number of streets.

The statement, released at around 2 a.m., said that Israeli police continued to enforce a closure of Yefet street, where al-Saadi’s shooting death and subsequent clashes occurred, to prevent further clashes, as police maintained a heavy presence in the area.

Al-Samri said eight people were detained, including six minors, presumably for suspected involvement in the clashes. One was later released on bail.

She added that Israeli authorities were conducting ongoing dialogues with local leadership and called upon local leadership “to take responsibility and calm feelings until life is back to normal.”

The police spokesperson added that Israeli police vowed to “deal firmly with anyone who chooses to violate the law and disturb public order.”

According to Ynet, the investigation into al-Saadi’s killing was transferred to the the police internal investigations department at Israel’s justice ministry, and a gag order was imposed on the details of the victim and on the details of the investigation.

The attorney who represents the al-Saadi family was quoted by the Israeli news site as saying that "there was no reason to open fire (on the suspect) because he did not pose any danger to the officers. In my opinion, this was a wrong and unnecessary shooting that led to the loss of human life for no reason."

Attorney Amir Badran, a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council, reportedly said that "the police are beginning to treat the Arab minority as an enemy and shoot its members with intention to kill."

Israeli police have come under heavy criticism for what rights groups have referred to as “extrajudicial executions” and excessive use of force against Palestinians who did not pose an immediate threat or who could have been disarmed through non-lethal means.

While fatal shootings by Israeli forces of Palestinians are more common in the occupied Palestinian territory, Palestinian citizens of Israel say they routinely face discriminatory treatment at the hands of police forces amounting to racial profiling.

Palestinian-majority areas in Israel have also seen an increase in gun violence in recent years, while members of the Arab Joint List in the Israeli parliament have called on authorities to crack down on illegal weapons in Israel’s Palestinian communities, where there is a disproportionate lack of policing compared to Jewish-majority neighborhoods.

After a Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by an Israeli security guard during clashes in the Palestinian-majority town of Kafr Qasim in central Israel in June, Knesset member Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint List, accused Israeli police of treating Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as enemies to be fought rather than citizens to be protected.

He said Palestinian citizens could "no longer tolerate this disfigured reality, where their blood is being shed in vain," Odeh said. "Instead of keeping order and security in Arab towns, they (police) open fire at the residents."

The Joint List has warned that a rise in policing Palestinian communities in the form of punitive action rather than protecting Palestinian citizens of Israel from criminal violence would only result in increased tension and confrontation between locals and police.
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