Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in the city of Jaffa in Israel on April 1, Wednesday, to protest atrocities committed by the police under the cover of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government. The Israeli police responded by firing rubber coated bullets and stun grenades and arrested at least four protesters. Some protesters were also injured in the police action.
People in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood came out to protest in large numbers despite the imposition of lockdown and restrictions on movement due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A video showing police manhandling local residents, including a woman, and issuing tickets to impose fines of around 5,000 shekel (USD 1,388) later circulated on social media.
In the video, a policeman can be seen stopping and arresting a teenaged Palestinian boy after he fails to show his identification proof. After residents and family members of the boy tried to resolve the matter, the police reportedly resorted to violence.
Police later justified the violence citing quarantine guidelines issued by the Israeli ministry of health. According to them, no person is allowed to go beyond 100 meters of their house. However, according to residents who spoke to Middle East Eye, the teenager was not in violation of this rule and the police reaction was a result of the prevalent hostility against minorities in Israel in general, and against Palestinians in particular. Jaffa is a predominantly Palestinian town located south of Tel Aviv.
Jaffa-Tel Aviv council member Amir Bardan has accused the Israeli policemen of escalating the situation by using “disrespect and violence”, RT reported.
Mossawa Center, an advocacy group for Arab citizens of Israel, said on its official Twitter handle, “Israeli police are selectively enforcing #Coronavirus regulations. Chasing down and tasing a #Palestinian #Arab citizen of #Israel for refused to show ID, the Israeli police has been using the outbreak as an excuse to carry out more aggressive tactics in this community.” It also posted a video showing police misbehavior with Palestinian citizens.
Meanwhile, Israeli news and social media reportedly circulated fake reports claiming that the police were attempting to arrest the Palestinian boy as he was infected.
Israel has 6,211 active cases of COVID-19, with 31 deaths reported as of April 2. However, even at this critical time, when global calls for releasing prisoners to prevent COVID-19 spread are growing, Israel has not ceased its arbitrary arrests of Palestinian protesters. It has also refused to release prisoners from poorly maintained and overcrowded jails, instead imposing stricter restrictions on inmates in a further violation of their basic rights.
Israel has also refused to lift the decades-old siege of the occupied Gaza territory, endangering the lives of millions.