The Gaza Strip ministry of interior on Saturday evening agreed to jail three security officers for two weeks after a fact-finding commission determined that they had used excessive force against demonstrators and journalists during a rally marking the Nakba on Thursday.
The move to punish the officers is a rare rebuke to the security forces by the Hamas-run Gaza government, suggesting a potential step towards increased accountability and transparency as they move to merge with the West Bank security forces as part of a national reconciliation deal currently being implemented.
Spokesman for the ministry of interior Iyad al-Buzm told Ma’an that the fact-finding commission had reprimanded two security officers and a policeman who “assaulted” journalists and demonstrators with a warning and recommended that they be jailed for two weeks, a sentence the ministry had agreed to carry out.
The ministry-appointed fact-finding commission found that the three had reacted violently toward demonstrators who “pushed them” and “passed the checkpoint by force” after being told not to approach the border fence.
Al-Buzm said that the security officers denied them entry to the direction of the border fence because they feared that Israeli forces would fire at them, but in response some of the demonstrators “swore” at them and a demonstrator “slapped one of the officers in the face” before six other demonstrators set fire to wheat fields near the border fence.
As a result, al-Buzm added, two officers from the national security service and a police officer assaulted some of the protestors and journalists who were at the scene with clubs “in an attempt to prevent them from reaching the border fence.”
The commission mentioned that before the arrival of the demonstrators, the journalists had been treated “respectfully” by the officers stationed at the checkpoint.
“The commander of the checkpoint treated them very positively. They were allowed to rest, drink water, and pray, and they engaged in conversation with the commander,” he said.
The commission began its investigation into the incident on Saturday at 11 in the morning, and it was completed at 8 in the evening.
Members of the fact-finding commission listened to testimonies from all sides including protestors, activists, journalists and security officers who attended the rally, al-Buzm said.
In addition, dozens of other witnesses made their testimonies by phone. Footage caught by cameras was also watched to help the commission reach a “fair decision.”
A 2013 Human Rights Watch report said that Palestinian security forces under Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank “repeatedly suppressed free association and peaceful assembly.”
The report called on them to “publicly acknowledge violations by their respective security services, and take concrete steps in 2013 toward ending impunity.”
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)