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Funeral held for 19-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in Jenin hours earlier

Jan. 29, 2017 3:25 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 10:42 A.M.)
JENIN (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of mourners took to the streets of the city of Jenin on Sunday morning to join the funeral procession for 19-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Khalifa, hours after Israeli forces fatally shot him with a live bullet in the back during a military raid into Jenin refugee camp that erupted into clashes.

Mourners carried his body to Jenin Governmental Hospital for a final farewell before gathering for a funeral prayer, and continued on to the Martyr's cemetery for burial.

During the funeral march, mourners called for justice and demanded that Israel be prosecuted and held accountable for the crimes committed in Jenin refugee camp. Participants also called for an end to political conflicts among Palestinian factions as gunmen shot into the air.

Members of the family said Muhammad Abu Khalifa was an employee of the Public Works and Housing Administration in Jenin and had celebrated his 19th birthday just a few hours before Israeli forces shot him to death.

Muhammad Abu Khalifa's father, Mahmoud Abu Khalifa, expressed his family’s deep pain and sorrow for the loss of their son, describing the killing as an escalation of Israeli crimes against the Abu Khalifa family.

The grieving father explained that his slain son's uncle, Issam, was killed by Israeli forces during the First Intifada, his cousin had been shot and injured by Israeli forces, and two other cousins -- brothers Muhammad and Ahmad Abu Khalifa -- were detained in an Israeli army raid on Thursday.

Member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council Jamal Juyil told Ma'an that "Israel has escalated its crimes in Jenin refugee camp and have repeatedly raided the camp over the past three days." Juyil vowed that the Palestinian struggle against Israeli aggression would continue.

Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Khalifa was reportedly shot with a live bullet in the lower back that went through his body, emerging from his abdomen.

State-run Palestinian news agency Wafa said that Abu Khalifa was left on the ground for hours before paramedics were able to evacuate his body.

After undercover Israeli forces in a civilian vehicle infiltrated the camp, dozens of military vehicles stormed the area, sparking violent clashes that continued for several hours, with Israeli forces heavily firing live ammunition, stun grenades, and tear gas into the camp, as youth threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the clashes to Ma’an via telephone, saying that “violent rioters attacked and hurled pipe bombs” at Israeli forces, with no injuries reported among Israeli forces.

“Responding to the threat, forces fired toward main instigators,” the spokesperson added. She said that “hits were confirmed,” but did not directly confirm Abu Khalifa’s killing or the number of Palestinians who were injured.

The purpose behind the hours-long raid remained unclear, as the Israeli army spokesperson said that no detentions were made in the camp.

On Friday, four Palestinians were injured during a predawn raid in the camp when no detentions were reported.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Due to the typically aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries.

Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, including minors, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response.

When asked Sunday morning if the army was opening an investigation to Abu Khalifa’s death, a spokesperson told Ma’an they would look into the matter.

However, Israeli rights group B’Tselem said on Tuesday that “over the years, referring cases to the military law enforcement system with a view to promoting real accountability has proved ineffective,” arguing that “even when a military investigation was actually launched, it nearly always wound up as a whitewash.”

The comments came as the group released a report and video revealing that 17-year-old Ahmad Hazem Ata Zidani, who was killed in December, was fleeing from the scene of clashes and not posing a threat to anyone when Israeli forces shot him.

According to Ma'an documentation, Muhammad Abu Khalifa was the eighth Palestinian to have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.

Five Israelis, either soldiers or police officers, have been killed by Palestinians during the same time period, all in alleged vehicular attacks.

Ma'an recorded the deaths of 112 Palestinians and 15 Israelis in 2016 as a result of violence from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
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