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Al Mezan strongly condemns police attacks on peaceful protesters in Gaza and calls for swift investigation into reported violence

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1 August 2023 |Reference 48/2023

At about 5 p.m. on Sunday, 30 July 2023, peaceful demonstrators from all districts of the Gaza Strip took to the streets to protest the electricity crisis and soaring unemployment levels and to demand improved living conditions. The protests arose following appeals by a group of activists on social media. Despite their peaceful nature, the protests were met with violent actions by police and members of the security forces, resulting in injuries and arrests of some protesters.

Parallel to these protests, groups of Hamas supporters also took to the streets to show their support for the resistance and to demand the lifting of Israel’s blockade and closure on Gaza. These demonstrations took place in the same locations where the other protests were scheduled to begin, particularly in Jabaliya, Khan Younis and Rafah. As a result, clashes broke out between the two groups, resulting in some individuals being wounded with varying degrees of injury.

Palestinian police arrested several protesters, including journalist Walid Talal Abdulrahman, 44, a member of the Journalists' Syndicate Secretariat, who was covering the incidents in Gaza's northern district. Journalist Ihab Omar Fasfous, 44, was threatened by plainclothes individuals who identified themselves as part of the intelligence and prevented him from using his camera while covering protests in Khan Younis. Fasfour was threatened again when the protest moved toward the Abu Hmaid traffic circle in Khan Younis, with another plainclothes individual claiming to be from internal security.

In Gaza City, Interior Ministry security services forcibly dispersed a planned peaceful protest in Al-Jundi Square, in the city center, at 5 p.m. the same day. Security members attacked the rally, assaulting people and arresting several individuals. In Deir al-Balah, three persons were arrested for participating in a peaceful protest in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp. In Rafah, four protesters were arrested, three of whom had previously been admitted to Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital for medical treatment due to clashes that occurred between protesters and Hamas supporters.

Al Mezan expresses deep concern over the violence that occurred during the peaceful protests across the Gaza Strip and stresses the need to respect the rights of peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of the press—all of which are guaranteed by international human rights law and the Palestinian Basic Law.

While those detained during the protests were reportedly released, we reiterate our call for the Public Prosecutor's Office to conduct a serious and full investigation into the attacks, including the actions taken by security members to disperse the protesters. Local police and security personnel must facilitate and protect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression, as well as implement the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of people in the exercise of these rights.

Al Mezan warns of the seriousness of the clashes that occurred between Hamas supporters and peaceful protesters and expresses concern that this may be an attempt to intimidate and suppress peaceful protests.

Lastly, we call on government departments in the Gaza Strip to carefully consider the legitimate demands of the demonstrations, revisit their policies related to electricity, taxes and municipal plans, and adopt economic and social policies that take into account the conditions of society and support the resilience of the population in the face of severe social and economic conditions resulting from the prolonged Israeli closure and blockade and internal political division.