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AFP
May 12, 2021

Israel using unlawful force in al-Quds, says AI

AFP
May 12, 2021

OCCUPIED-AL-QUDS: Amnesty International said Israel is using "abusive and wanton force against largely peaceful Palestinian protesters" in east al-Quds clashes that have wounded hundreds of demonstrators.

Israel on Tuesday firmly defended the conduct of its officers, insisting they have responded to violent Palestinian rioters with appropriate measures. But the London-based human rights group described some of those measures as "disproportionate and unlawful", accusing security forces of "unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators".

Amnesty’s statement came amid surging tension in Israeli-annexed al-Quds, much of it concentrated at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site. At Al-Aqsa and in clashes elsewhere in east al-Quds, police used stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas and skunk water cannons in response to Palestinians who hurled stones, bottles and fireworks at officers.

Amnesty said Israel has used excessive force over multiple weeks of east al-Quds protests. In one incident, it said Israeli forces last week broke up a peaceful circle of Palestinians chanting against an attempt by Israelis to evict them from their homes in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah district.

Forces on horseback sprinted toward the crowd, trampling a man who was trying to run away, Amnesty said. The rights group called on the international community "to hold Israel accountable for its systemic violations".

The Israeli police did not respond to specific allegations, but told AFP in an email: "We will not allow disturbance of order while harming the fabric of life, inciting to harm police forces and violence against police officers and civilians."

Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai told Israeli N12 TV on Monday that in al-Quds in recent days "we showed too much restraint". "We are at the stage of taking off the gloves," he said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations rights office said Tuesday it was "deeply concerned" by the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, east al-Quds and Israel. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights appealed for calm after several days of unrest.

Tensions in al-Quds have flared into the city’s worst disturbances since 2017 after Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of Palestinian worshippers on the last Friday of the month of Ramazan.

Israel and Hamas exchanged heavy fire on Tuesday, with at least 29 Palestinians killed in Gaza. "We are deeply concerned at the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east al-Quds, and Israel in the past days," Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s office, told reporters in Geneva. "We condemn all violence and all incitement to violence and ethnic division and provocations."