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Israel's new undercover military unit 'racist and illegal', rights group says

Israeli soldiers seen during a combat exercise, at an Israeli Army base in Tel Aviv, on 20 August 2019 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
Israeli soldiers seen during a combat exercise, at an Israeli Army base in Tel Aviv, on 20 August 2019 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, wrote to senior Israeli officials, demanding an immediate halt to the establishment of a new undercover military unit intended to operate exclusively within Arab localities within Israel.

Wesam Sharaf, Adalah's attorney, argued in the letter that the decision was illegal and operated contrary to police regulations requiring officers who are not wearing uniforms to identify.

It would legitimately establish two separate systems of law enforcement within Israel, he added.

"The Israeli police should not be establishing a new undercover unit when it is already illegally operating undercover units in Arab communities. This decision makes it patently obvious that the Israeli police continue to relate to Palestinian citizens of Israel as an enemy," said Sharaf.

The letter addressed to Israel's attorney general, internal security minister and the national police commissioner, also noted the killing of 22-year-old Palestinian nursing student, Ahmad Hijazi, and the wounding of one other civilian during a covert Israeli military operation in the Palestinian Arab community of Tamra in February.

READ: Palestinians mourn Jerusalemite killed by Israel forces

"Given the recent incidents of police violence directed deliberately at Palestinian citizens exercising their democratic right to protest, we have no confidence in the police's claims that this new unit's only purpose is to fight crime," said Sharaf.

Several Arab-majority cities and neighbourhoods in Israel have recently witnessed demonstrations against Israeli police complicity in fighting crime and violence.

"No democracy in the world would approve the establishment of a police unit directed at a specific ethnic group, and this stands in stark contrast to the principles of equality. This, once again, makes it clear that nothing has changed in Israeli police's attitude toward Arab citizens – even following the conclusions of the Orr Commission which investigated the October 2000 killings," he added.

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