Rights Groups, EU Demand Answers After 2 Gazans Claimed Killed by Hamas Security Forces
Authorities must address police violations, Gaza human rights professional says
[Gaza City] The deaths of two young Palestinian men in separate incidents and under questionable circumstances have evoked an outpouring of grief in the Gaza Strip.
The European Union Delegation to the Palestinians in Gaza City said on Twitter that it was: “Appalled by the killing of Imad al-Taweel on 25 July & Hassan Abu Zayed on 23 July by, reportedly, Hamas security forces in Gaza.”
The delegation demanded in a tweet on Tuesday that a “full, independent & transparent investigation” be conducted.
Abu Zayed, 27, and two friends were driving in Gaza City on July 23, according to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), citing his relatives. “While they were passing through a checkpoint … in the east of the Shuja’iyya neighborhood, the car was shot at [by the security personnel], which led to the injury of Hassan Abu Zayed with one gunshot,” the ICHR reported. Abu Zayed was riding in the back seat of the vehicle.
“His friends took him to Al-Shifa Medical Complex and then turned themselves in at the Tuffah and Daraj police station,” the ICHR continued. Abu Zayed later died in the hospital.
Gaza’s Interior Ministry claimed, a day after the incident, that the “guards ordered the driver to stop, but he refused and sped off, so two shots were fired at the vehicle.”
After heavy pressure from local human rights organizations, the ministry issued a “final investigative report” on Tuesday, which said that “the [Hamas] field control forces bear responsibility for the incident and the death of [Abu Zayed], and accept all the responsibilities that entails.”
The ministry emphasized that it would take the necessary measures to prevent a recurrence of the actions that led to Abu Zayed’s death.
There were some serious violations by police in the processes of arrest and inspection that need to be carefully addressed by authorities
Sameer Zaqout, deputy director of the Gaza City-based Al Mezan Center For Human Rights, said he considers the report “a clear and positive sign that implies a tacit admission of the mistake.”
“The good thing that comes out of this is the significant focus on the need to tighten measures that would protect innocents in the future,” Zaqout told The Media Line.
Shortly after the first incident, the death of Imad al-Taweel, 27, during a police raid again put authorities in Gaza under heavy public criticism.
The ICHR reported on Monday that: “A police force of nearly 40 officers went to the house of Husni al-Taweel, located in Nuseirat camp. They deployed and surrounded the entire place. About 15 officers entered the house and began to search it for nearly an hour.”
The statement continued: “According to testimonies obtained by the ICHR from eyewitnesses, … members of the Taweel family came and tried to enter, but the police prevented them, and they assaulted the citizen Imad al-Taweel by pushing, beating and striking with fists and sticks on all parts of his body.”
However, Zaqout said this narrative is inaccurate, based on human rights researchers’ documentation of the incident.
Tarek Zaqout, a field researcher for the Ramallah-based Al-Haq human rights organization, told The Media Line that his organization spoke with Imad al-Taweel’s family after the police search.
“A day after the incident, our team headed to the [Taweel] family, collected testimonies, and met with the deceased’s brother, Mazen, who confirmed that his brother hadn’t been exposed to any direct assault from the police forces. There was only a kind of pushing between them and the family members, including Imad,” he said.
“Fifteen minutes after the police’s departure, Imad started to feel pain in his chest, difficulty in breathing, and he vomited several times. He was, therefore, transferred to the hospital, and he died one hour later, although he had a clean medical history and had never suffered from health issues,” Tarek Zaqout said.
Sameer Zaqout says that even if this is an accurate description of events, “that doesn’t negate the fact that there were some serious violations by police in the processes of arrest and inspection that need to be carefully addressed by authorities.”