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14 Palestinians finally laid to rest in occupied al-Khalil

2nd January, 2016 | International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | al-Khalil, occupied Palestine

On the 2nd of January 2016, thousands attended the funeral of 14 martyrs in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron). A demonstration following the funeral, against the continued killing of Palestinians with impunity by the Israeli military and Zionist settlers, was attacked by Israeli forces.

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Part of the massive funeral procession walking up the road toward the Martyrs’ cemetery

The new year in the occupied West Bank began with the handover of 23 bodies that the Israeli government had been withholding from their families, some for over two months. These 23 young Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces or settlers claiming that they had been carrying out attacks; in many cases, eyewitnesses reported that Israeli forces planted evidence on the bodies or killed the alleged attackers when they posed no imminent threat. Israeli forces then took the bodies of the Palestinians killed and the Israeli government refused to return them to their families, denying them funerals and proper burial.

17 of the 23 bodies that were finally returned to their families were from the al-Khalil district. Of these 14 were from al-Khalil city itself, and were thus buried on Saturday in the Martyrs’ cemetery of al-Khalil. Thousands of people marched in the funeral procession from the Hussein mosque to the cemetery, with the fourteen bodies carried on the shoulders of their families. The families of the young men killed finally had the chance to bury their loved ones in an appropriate manner and grieve their loss.

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One of the 14 bodies of Palestinian youths being carried down the road in al-Khalil

As the procession was passing by a road that leads down toward Shuhada checkpoint, Israeli forces threw stun grenades into the street even though no one was approaching or even near checkpoint.

The fourteen people buried this Saturday in occupied al-Khalil are:

Basil Bassam Ragheb Sidr, 20, shot dead on 14th October 2015
Fadil Abdullah Qawasmi, 18, shot dead by Israeli settlers on 17th October 2015
Farouq Abd al-Qadir Sider, 19, shot dead on 19th October 2015
Saad Muhammad Youssef al-Atrash, 19, shot dead on 26th October 2015
Shadi Nabil al-Qudsi, 22, shot dead on 27th October 2015
Izz al-Din Nadi Abu Shkheidem, 19, shot dead on 27th October 2015
Humaaam Adnan al-Saeed, 23, shot dead on 27th October 2015
Islam Rafiq Hammad Ibeido, 23, shot dead on 28th October 2015
Mahdi Muhammad al-Muhtaseb, 23, shot dead on 29th October 2015
Malik Talal al-Shareef, 25, shot dead on 5th November 2015
Mustafa Fadhil Fanoon, 15, shot dead on 4th December 2015
Taher Faysal Fannoun, 19, shot dead on 4th December 2015
Ibah Fathi Miswadeh, 21, shot on 7th December 2015
Abd al-Rahman Miswadeh, shot dead on 7th December 2015

The three Palestinians buried in the al-Khalil area are:
Hamzeh Moussa al-Imla, 25, shot dead on 20th October 2015. Buried in Beit Ula
Fadi Hassan al-Froukh, shot dead on 1st November 2015. Buried in Sair village
Omar Arafat Issa al-Zaaqiq, 19, shot dead on 27th November 2015. Buried in Beit Ummar

After the funeral procession for Omar al-Zaaqiq, Israeli forces injured 12 protesters with rubber-coated steel bullets, including two that were shot in the head.

After the funeral in al-Khalil dozens of young Palestinian men braved wet, cold weather to gather in the streets of Bab al-Zawwiya neighborhood around Shuhada checkpoint to protest the murder of these martyrs. Israeli forces advanced from Shuhada checkpoint and threw stun grenades into the streets. They also pursued a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance that was driving up the road with its lights and sirens on in the H1 area of al-Khalil, the part supposedly under full Palestinian control. Israeli forces stopped the ambulance and threw a stun grenade at it, forcing medics to drive back in the direction they had come.

Israeli forces occupied a building and roof in Bab al-Zawwiya, using their vantage to aim down at protesters, mock the demonstrators and throw stones at them.

Palestinians and internationals documenting the Israeli forces’ violent attackon the demonstration were directly targeted by Israeli forces. Local activist Imad Abu Shamsiya was shot in the foot with a rubber-coated metal bulle by Israeli forces. One international was hit in the hand with a rubber-coated metal bullet when clearly holding a camera filming the event. “We were standing in the street taking photos of the soldiers aiming their rifles at demonstrators and realized that they were aiming right at us when a rubber-coated metal bullet hit right above my head,” another ISM activist recalled.

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Photo taken just before Israeli border police aimed a rubber-coated metal bullet just above an ISMer’s head

Israeli forces indiscriminately fired rounds of plastic-coated metal bullets that, in contrast to the rubber-coated metal bullets, were not aimed and targeted at  individuals but would instead hit anyone in the vicinity. The clashes ended after over two hours of confrontation with Israeli forces, with no severe injuries.

While the families of the 23 young Palestinians returned on New Year’s Day were finally able to bury their loved ones, other families are still waiting and demanding the return of the bodies of their family members killed by Israeli forces or settlers. This inhumane tactic of keeping the bodies from the families, thus denying them the possibility of holding a funeral according to their beliefs, clearly violates article 17 of the 1949 Geneva Convention: I “[Parties to the conflict] shall further ensure that the dead are honourably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged, that their graves are respected, grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased, properly maintained and marked so that they may always be found.”