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Israeli police detain 5 in Jaffa as residents protest racial profiling

July 31, 2017 12:53 P.M. (Updated: July 31, 2017 9:10 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli police detained five Palestinian citizens of Israel overnight Sunday in the town of Jaffa, which has been the scene of protests over the weekend against police brutality and racial profiling.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement on Monday that five residents of Jaffa, including three minors, were detained after setting fire to garbage containers during the night.

She added that Israeli police was also investigating the torching of two vehicles in the area on Sunday night.

Hundreds of mourners participated in a funeral on Saturday night in Jaffa for 22-year-old Mahdi al-Saadi, who was shot dead by police early Saturday morning.

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 amid an atmosphere of tension and outrage.

Israeli forces have long 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.

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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