Police to be probed for alleged violence in dispersing pro-Gaza protest in Haifa
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More demonstrations in the city Sunday night

Police to be probed for alleged violence in dispersing pro-Gaza protest in Haifa

Activist sustained a broken knee in the aftermath of his arrest; 20 others were also held

Arab-Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah arrested by police at a Haifa demonstration against Israel's conduct in Gaza on May 18, 2018. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Arab-Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah arrested by police at a Haifa demonstration against Israel's conduct in Gaza on May 18, 2018. (Screen capture/Twitter)

The Justice Ministry’s police internal investigations department is to look into allegations of violence by police officers against demonstrators at a Gaza solidarity protest in Haifa at the weekend.

Twenty-one people were arrested when the demonstration was dispersed, and one activist sustained a broken knee in the aftermath of his arrest.

The activist, Jafar Farah was hospitalized.

The probe by the department, which is independent of the police, was announced on Sunday. The investigators are expected to ask police for relevant material, and then decide whether to open a formal investigation.

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint (Arab) List in the Knesset, has accused the police of “brutal” treatment of the demonstrators.

The police said “all arrests were carried out lawfully and in accordance with procedures.”

Further demonstrations were taking place in Haifa on Sunday evening. Protesters gathered at three different sites in the city, the Walla news site reported, and counter-demonstrations were being mounted by right-wingers.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday called Odeh and his associates “terrorists” who belong in jail, after the Arab MK lashed out at police for their behavior.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on April 26, 2018 at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

“Every day that Ayman Odeh and his associates are free to walk around cursing at police officers is a failure of law enforcement authorities,” Liberman posted on Twitter. “The place for these terrorists is not in the Knesset, it’s in prison,” he said. “It’s time they pay a price for their actions.”

Odeh on Saturday confronted police at the hospital where Farah was being treated for the broken knee. Odeh called one of the officers stationed outside the Bnai Zion Medical Center a “loser.”

Organizers of the protest said Farah, who serves as the chairman of the Mossawa rights group, sustained a broken knee while in police custody overnight Friday.

In an earlier statement, Odeh slammed police for the “brutal dispersal” of Friday’s demonstration and called on the attorney general to review the incident. He also criticized police for its conduct during a demonstration of some 200 people on Monday against the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A number of MKs from the Joint List took part in that protest, near the new embassy, including Odeh.

Riot police surrounded protest in down town Haifa tonight and immediately attacked protesters.21 arrested so far.#Haifa #Gaza #GreatReturnMarch #حيفا #فلسطين #مسيرة_العودة_الكبرى #غزة

Posted by Nadine Nashef on Friday, 18 May 2018

“The wild attack on us by police in Jerusalem and the attack and arrest of the demonstrators in Haifa, over claims that raising the Palestinian flag constitutes incitement, is untrue and also illegal,” Odeh said Saturday.

Likud MK Nava Boker said she had asked the Knesset Ethics Committee to discipline Odeh over the confrontation at the hospital.

“We cannot remain silent when Knesset members humiliate [police], harm them and turn them into a punching bag,” she tweeted.

Joint List faction leader Ayman Odeh speaks the Israeli Social Conference 2018 in Tel Aviv on May 1, 2018.(Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

It was unclear how activist Farah suffered the knee injury, and police did not respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment. Footage of his arrest the day prior shows Farah being led away in handcuffs and walking on his own.

Farah’s son posted on Facebook Saturday that his father was handcuffed to his hospital bed, still in police custody.

Farah was one of 21 protesters arrested for what police said was “violating public order” during the demonstration.

Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli condemned the police’s handling of the incident, calling Farah “a partner in the struggle for equality and peace.” In a tweet, the opposition lawmaker said his treatment at the hands of police was “frightening,” and said she would demand an explanation from Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan next week.

Since March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians have taken part in weekly “March of Return” protests, which Israel says are orchestrated by the ruling Hamas terror group in Gaza and used as cover for attempted attacks and breaches of the border fence.

On Saturday, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during Monday’s border clashes had risen to 64, with more than 2,700 wounded in the violence. Hamas has admitted that 50 of the dead were members of the terror group. Three others were Islamic Jihad members.

The weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel, known collectively as the “March of Return,” were to end this week, but Hamas leaders have said they want them to continue. About 1,000 protesters took part in demonstrations Friday.

The Palestinian deaths during the protests were met with international outrage. On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council ordered an investigation into the killings. Israel said it would not cooperate, and the US castigated the move as “shameful.”

In Jerusalem on Monday, police arrested 14 left-wing activists who were protesting the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem near the new mission building in the capital’s Arnona neighborhood. Among the protesters were several Arab members of Knesset, some of whom scuffled with police and one of whom was pushed at one point to the ground by officers.

Israeli Arabs and Palestinians demonstrate outside the new US embassy as the ceremony to inaugurate the United States’ controversial embassy in Jerusalem began on May 14, 2018. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Footage from that protest near the embassy, held as Israeli leaders and senior US officials gathered inside for the dedication ceremony, showed Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka shoved to the ground by officers he was scuffling with. Another member of his party, MK Masud Ganaim, was also seen angrily confronting Israeli forces.

The detainees “did not keep to the terms that the protesters had agreed upon with police,” a police spokesperson said. Police said some chanted “Allahu Akbar” and waved Palestinian flags during the demonstration.

The spokesman refused to elaborate as to why such flags and chants were considered a “provocation.”

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