The Center's preliminary investigation and eyewitness accounts indicate that tens of thousands of participants from all over the Gaza Strip started to arrive in Qatiba Grounds near Al-Azhar University in Gaza City on the morning of Monday, 12 November 2007. They were arriving to attend the Fatah rally on the 3rd anniversary of the death of the late President Yasser Arafat. The rally was scheduled to start at 13:00 Gaza time.
Palestinian police armed with guns and batons and civilian-clothed gunmen were deployed in roads leading to the Qatiba Grounds since the early morning hours. Clashes broke out between the police and rally participants at 11:30 and resulted in the death of Tariq Mahmoud El-Najjar (29) by a bullet to the chest and right hand. One of the Center's staff stated that he witnessed clashes between rally participants and members of the police in the area. He stated that at about 11:30, a jeep carrying civilian-clothed gunmen was heading in the direction opposite to hundreds of people heading to the rally in Jamal Abd El-Naser Street. He added that the jeep's presence was provocative and an attempt to "show off" by driving in the midst of hundreds of rally participants. As the jeep passed, there were harassments; and the gunmen replied by firing in the air. They made their way out of the masses into a side street.
After the end of the rally, violence broke out between rally participants and the police. The demonstrators threw rocks at the police who responded by indiscriminate gunfire and raiding the rally grounds. Pictures showed members of the police deployed around Qatiba grounds firing indiscriminately at the rally participants.
The firing resulted in the death of 5 people and injury of 80 others in the area around the Qatiba Grounds. Three of the injuries are serious. There are 9 children and 2 women among the injured. The victims killed are:
1- Ibrahim Mahmoud Ahmad (12) from Beit Hanoun; killed by a bullet to the neck.
2- Mohammad Ahmad El-Masri (67) from Khan Yunis; killed by a bullet to the head.
3- Yehia Khaled Abu Samra (19) from Deir El-Balah; killed by a bullet to the chest.
4- Kamel Mohammad Zeyara (19) from Beach Camp; killed by a bullet to the chest.
5- Husam Bader El-Ewadi (26) from Gaza City; killed by a bullet to the head.
The police also chased rally participants and beat them with batons and sticks. In the meantime, several journalists were attacked, including:
- Khaled Jamal Bolbol, a photographer for Zoom Press. He was beaten and his camera was broken and confiscated.
- Mohammad Sawalha, a photographer for Abu Dhabi Satellite Station. He was detained and his camera tape was confiscated.
- Mowafaq Matar, a journalist for Al-Hayat Newspaper. He was detained and pictures were erased from his camera.
In a development of the events, the police fired at demonstrators in the funeral procession of Yehia Abu Samra near the Deir El-Balah police station. The firing came after youth shouted insults at the police. Seven people were injured, including three suffering shrapnel wounds.
In the evening, the police carried out a large-scale arrests operation against tens of Fatah activists throughout the Gaza Strip. Others received summoning orders to police stations today and tomorrow. PCHR's fieldworkers indicated that the operation continued throughout the night and into the early morning hours.
PCHR strongly condemns these attacks, and points to the following observations:
1- Our staff documented the deployment of police roadblocks on the main roads in and around Gaza City to prevent the arrival of Fatah supporters to the rally in Qatiba Grounds in Gaza City.
2- Our staff documented the heavy deployment of uniformed police armed with guns and batons and civilian-clothes security personnel and gunmen in the streets leading to the rally grounds and around it. This deployment laid the groundwork for violence friction and for the actions that transpired.
3- Security authorities have the right to take security precautions to preserve the civilian lives and property; however it is not permissible to push hundreds of gunmen and security personnel in a confrontation with civilians.
4- The acts of violence that accompanied the large rally over a large area, including throwing rocks at the police and security personnel, does not justify the excessive and disproportionate use of force by the police.
5- Our staff did not register or find any member of the police or security who was injured by gunfire, which contradicts the statements by the police and Hamas.
6- The duty of the police and security personnel is to protect participants. And in the case of coming under gunfire, as claimed by governmental sources in Gaza, indiscriminate, excessive, and lethal firing by the police at civilian gatherings is not justified.
7- The government in Gaza seems to be dealing with demonstrations and peaceful rallies in this typical manner, which is rejected and condemned by the Centre.
8- The Centre renews the call to the dismissed government in Gaza to immediately investigate these attacks, especially the circumstances of the death of the 6 civilians, and to prosecute the perpetrators.
9- The Centre calls upon the dismissed government in Gaza to take the necessary security and political steps to ensure that such events do not recur.
10- The Centre calls for the immediate release of all persons detained for political reasons, noting that political detention is illegal in Palestinian law.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 - 2825893
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