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Palestinian rights groups slam Gaza police raid

(AFP) / 17 January 2012

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Two Palestinian human rights group on Monday condemned the use of “excessive” force by policemen against Shiites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights denounced “the excessive force used by Hamas security forces against citizens observing their Shiite religion on Saturday in Beit Lahiya,” in the north of the Strip.

It also called on Gaza’s Islamist authorities to probe the allegations.

The Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, meanwhile, condemned the actions of security forces as a “violation of freedom of opinion, expression and belief.”

The centre said a group of men wearing the uniform of Hamas police and some in masks assaulted people who had assembled to practice the Shiite religion in a house in Beit Lahiya.

The Hamas interior ministry said in a statement that “Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and in Palestine in general are Sunnis,” adding it “was not aware of the existence of any Shiites.”

“We respect all confessions, including Shiites. We do not interfere in the practice of their religion nor their traditions and we will not accept any intervention in the practice of ours,” it said.

The ministry described the incident on Saturday as “a raid by Palestinian police against an illegal group planning criminal acts.”

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