PCHR strongly condemns the bloody incidents that took place on Sunday noon in Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, which took the life of a bodyguard of Majed Abu Shammala, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and wounded seven others, including three children. PCHR calls upon the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to effectively investigate these incidents, which are part of the state of security chaos plaguing the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and bring the perpetrators to justice.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:30 on Sunday, 6 May 2007, the Second Loyalty Festival was organized at the UNRWA al-‘Omariya Preparatory School in Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in the west of Rafah. The festival was attended by John Ging, Director of UNRWA’s Field Office; Majed Abu Shammala, Member of the PLC; a number of public figures; students; and parents.
As soon as the festival started, at least 50 persons from al-Bayan Center for Ancestral Invocation in Rafah gathered holding signboards denouncing the festival because it included signing, dabkah (a folklore art) and association of males and females, claiming that such activities contradict the Islamic teachings. The center had already disseminated leaflets on Saturday evening, 5 May 2007, calling for organizing protests at the door of the school.
At approximately 12:50, the protestors attempted to prevent PLC Member Abu Shammala from leaving the school after he has delivered a speech, in which he highly appreciated efforts made by the UNRWA Education Department and criticized the protestors [stating] that they want to take the society back to the dark ages. Abu Shammala’s bodyguards opened fire into the air to disperse the protestors as stones had been thrown at his car. Soon after, three hand grenades were thrown at Abu Shammala’s car. As a result, eight persons, including three children, were wounded. One of the wounded, Suleiman Suleiman al-Sha’er, 28, Abu Shammala’s bodyguard, died from his wound as soon as he was admitted into the hospital. An UNRWA minibus was also damaged. According to an eyewitness, who was wounded by the attack, the three hand grenades were thrown from protestors’ side, but he did not see the attacker specifically.
The others who were wounded are:
1. Mohammed Shawqi Sha’ban, 8, wounded by a gunshot to the right hand;
2. Yahia Mousa al-Haj Yousef, 9, wounded by shrapnel to the head and the knee;
3. Mohammed Saleem Abu Sha’ira, 14, wounded by a gunshot to the back;
4. ‘Atwa ‘Ali al-Shaf’ei, 62, wounded by shrapnel to the left thigh;
5. Sa’ad ‘Abdul Qader al-Mughari, 56, wounded by shrapnel to the thighs;
6. Mohammed Fat’hi Abu Samra, 23, wounded by shrapnel throughout the body; and
7. Fares Mahmoud al-Sha’er, 23, wounded by a gunshot to the back.
The Palestinian police arrested two suspects and held them at a police station in Tal al-Sultan neighborhood. Later, a number of members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (the armed of Fatah movement) broke into the police station, attempting to abduct the two suspects, but the police was able to transfer them to the police headquarters in Gaza City.
PCHR reiterates condemnation for these incidents, and:
1. Calls upon the PNA, represented by the Attorney-General, to investigate them and bring the perpetrators of justice.
2. Stresses that such incidents are part of the state of security chaos plaguing the OPT, as the PNA has failed to take effective legal action to search for and prosecute those found responsible for them.
3. Emphasizes that the right to peaceful protests is ensured by the law, but strongly rejects the transformation of protests into violent acts.