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Funerals held for slain Palestinians draw large crowds, spark clashes in Beit Ummar

Dec. 17, 2016 2:19 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 18, 2016 12:32 P.M.)
Funeral in Beit Ummar for 15-year-old Khalid Bahr
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- After Israel returned on Friday the bodies of seven Palestinians that were killed by Israeli forces in recent months, funerals held in their hometowns across the occupied West Bank drew large crowds, with clashes erupting in Beit Ummar during the Saturday morning funeral for 15-year-year old Khalid Bahr.

Locals of Beit Ummar carried Khalid’s body to be buried after performing a prayer in the town’s mosque Saturday morning.

Israeli forces killed the 15-year-old boy on Oct. 20 in the village, when Israeli authorities claimed a soldier shot Khalid for throwing rocks at Israeli forces. An internal Israeli army investigation later revealed that the lives of Israeli soldiers were not at risk when Khalid was killed.

Following Khalid’s funeral, clashes erupted between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces at the entrance of Beit Ummar, after dozens of local youth threw rocks and empty bottles at the Israeli military post at the entrance of the town.

Witnesses said that an Israeli army ambulance was at the scene transferring a soldier from the area.

Locals said that Israeli military reinforcement arrived to the area afterwards, where Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas bombs at youths.

The funeral was preceded by a predawn Israeli army raid in central Beit Ummar Saturday morning. Activist Muhammad Awad said that Israeli forces raided and searched the house of Moussa Hassan Zaaqiq, which has been raided several times previously.

Israeli soldiers had also attempted to break into a grocery store belonging to Sami Hassan Jabr al-Allami, but soldiers were unable to break through the locks. Awad added that Israeli soldiers raided a nearby empty storage house that belongs to a former prisoner identified as Muhammad Issa Safi al-Sleibi.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into reports of raids and clashes in Beit Ummar.

Meanwhile, a funeral on Saturday morning was also held in the village of Bani Naim east of Hebron city, when thousands of mourners marched for Sarah Tarayra and Fares Khaddour, whose bodies were also released Friday night.

On July 1, Israeli forces shot dead 27-year-old Sarah Tarayra, who was pregnant, after she allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against border police officers near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City. No Israelis were injured in the incident. An investigation carried out by human rights organization B’Tselem determined the killing was not justified.

Fares Khaddour was killed on Sep. 16, after Israeli forces opened fired on the 18-year-old and his 18-year-old relative Raghdad Khaddour after the two allegedly attempted to carry out a car ramming attack, killing Fares instantly and critically injuring Raghad, who was hospitalized for weeks and later released. Three Israeli civilians were “treated for shock” in the incident but were not physically harmed.

A funeral was also held Saturday morning in the village of Beit Ula northeast of Hebron, when mourners laid Muhammad al-Sarrahin to rest after his body was also finally returned.

Al-Sarrahin, 30, was killed the same day as Khaddour, after he succumbed to gunshot wounds sustained earlier in the day when Israeli forces raided Beit Ula and opened live fire on al-Sarrahin as soldiers reportedly struggled to detain him. No Israelis were reported to be injured.

The bodies of Fares Khaddour, Khalid Bahr, and Muhammad al-Sarrahin after being prepared for burial in Hebron

In the northern occupied West Bank village of Asira al-Shamaliya in the Nablus district, hundreds of Palestinians marched in the funeral of Rahiq Birawi.

Israeli authorities returned her body late Friday night at the Jit crossroads, after it had been held since Israeli forces shot and killed her on Oct. 19 for an alleged stabbing attempt at a military checkpoint in southern Nablus. Birawi was shot more than 30 times by four Israeli border police officers. The incident, which was caught on video, was under Israeli army investigation.

Mourners waved pictures of Birawi, Palestinians flags, and flags of several Palestinian factions while repeating slogans calling for continuing resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Funeral for Rahiq Birawi
Rahiq Birawi
Funeral for Rahiq Birawi
Since a wave of unrest began last October, 243 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis and 34 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.

Rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases, denouncing what they have termed as a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israeli forces who have committed the killings.

Israeli authorities dramatically escalated a policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces amid the unrest, having repeatedly claimed that funerals of Palestinians had provided grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state.

When Israeli authorities have decided to return slain bodies and allow funerals in the occupied Palestinian territory, the ceremonies have been typically restricted by a long list of conditions imposed by Israeli authorities, including limiting the number of attendees and the deployment of Israeli soldiers throughout the event.

Palestinian families have also been forced to pay large financial deposits to the Israeli government as collateral for potential “incitement” during the funerals and to ensure that families abide by Israeli-imposed conditions.

A joint statement released by prisoners rights group Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah in March condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as "a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture."

The statement said it appeared "many" of the Palestinians whose bodies Israel was holding had been "extrajudicially executed by Israeli forces during alleged attacks against Israelis, despite posing no danger."
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