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YNet: Relatives: Bilin protester was persistent in his struggle

Ali Waked | Ynet

19 April 2009

Medical inquiry confirms Bassem Abu Rahma died after being hit by gas grenade fired from tear gas canister. IDF claims demonstrators rioted in West Bank village, but protestor’s relative says ‘there was no violence or provocation on our part’

The family of 30-year-old Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahma, who was killed Friday by a tear gas grenade in a demonstration against the separation fence near Bilin, was comforted Saturday at its home in the West Bank village by many friends and relatives.

Bassem’s relative, Abdullah Abu Rahma, told Ynet that there was no provocation on the part of the protestors during the rally.

The Israel Defense Forces is still investigating the circumstances of the incident, which has been defined by the army as a riot. Military representatives met over the weekend with Palestinian medical representatives in a meeting brokered by the Civil Administration, in order to conduct a joint medical inquiry, which confirmed that Abu Rahma was killed by an object which hit his chest, and not by a bullet.

A video filmed at the scene of the incident shows the protesters approaching the fence, including Bassem Abu Rahma, who is seen wearing a yellow shirt.

Abdullah was near Bassem when he was hurt. “I can say for certain that there was no violence or provocation on the part of the protestors,” he says. “The casualty’s last words were to the soldiers and police officers: ‘Stop firing, stop firing.’ And then the grenade hit him and he was critically injured.”

‘He died in my hands’

In his version of the incident, Abdullah says that as there was no close ambulance, he carried Bassem himself into the car with the help of other residents.

“We rushed to a hospital in Ramallah, but Bassem died between my hands,” he says. “It was a very difficult sight, and the family received the news with great pain. Bassem was known as a simple man, everyone’s friend, a person who was loved by all of the village’s residents, all the families and the residents of nearby villages, because of his integrity, plainness and his persistence in the struggle for his land.”

He adds that Bassem was the youngest of five brothers and that he also had a sister. “It’s a simple family, a poor family which suffered a lot of pain after part of its land was robbed, and was always involved in the non-violent struggle to return the lands,” he says.

“Those who came to the house came to grieve the fatal casualty and console, but also to show their appreciation for the family, which has suffered directly for a second time.”

This is not the first time the Abu Rahma family makes headlines under unfortunate circumstances: Bassem’s brother, Ashraf, was one of the most famous victims of the Palestinian struggle against the separation fence, when an IDF soldier was filmed shooting him while he was bound, after being arrested while trying to transfer foods and medications to residents of the nearby village of Naalin, which was under curfew. The shooting soldier was accused of inappropriate behavior, and the regiment commander who was present during the incident was moved to a different post.

‘Struggle non-violent – and Israel is losing’

Abdullah claims that the increasing incidents of firing on demonstrators in recent weeks, and the growing number of protestors injured and killed in anti-fence rallies, show that the Israelis don’t know how to handle the non-violent protests.

“When the struggle is armed, the Israelis like it,” he says. “They know that with their weapon, with one aircraft, one bombing, they can handle the struggle. But when the struggle is non-violent, and when peace activists from Israel and the entire world are taking part in the demonstrations, it’s harder to conceal the truth, to hide the robbery and violence.

“We’re noticing that they’re losing their senses, and this why, over time, they run wilder and become more violent.”

According to Abdullah, “We know that what worries the Israelis more is that this style of a non-violent struggle might spread from Bilin, Naalin and other numbered centers and become a wide model. So they are seeking to suppress this model before it spreads even more, because they know our struggle is justified and that they are losing.

“Moreover, Bassem was killed when we were trying to enter land which an Israeli court ruled we are allowed to enter.”