Thousands of Palestinians marched in funerals on Saturday for four Palestinians slain by Israeli forces in July in the Bethlehem and Hebron districts of the southern occupied West Bank after Israeli authorities returned the Palestinians’ bodies on Friday.
The funeral for Muhammad Tnouh, 26, was set off from Beit Jala Governmental Hospital, where Tnouh’s corpse was being examined, and continued towards his hometown of Tuqu in Bethlehem. Mourners waved Palestinian flags and flags of the Fatah movement. Israeli forces prevented the funeral march from passing on the main road of the village, forcing mourners to take another route to Tnouh’s house.
Farewells were said at the family’s house before thousands carried Tnouh’s slain body on their shoulders to the mosque to carry out prayers, before burying Tnouh at the town’s cemetery. Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces following the funeral, where Israeli forces at the main road in Tuqu shot live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas bombs at Palestinians and their homes.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they would look into reports on the clashes and blocking of the main road in the town. Tnouh was killed by Israeli forces on July 20th in Tuqu after attempting to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli soldiers. Until Friday, his corpse was held by the Israeli state.
Meanwhile, to the west of Tuqu, thousands of mourners attended the funeral for Abdullah Taqatqa, 24, in his hometown of Marah Maalla in southern Bethlehem. Taqatqa was killed a week ago near the Gush Etzion junction for allegedly attempting to carry out an attack on Israeli soldiers stationed in the area.
A parade of cars transported Taqatqa’s body from the al-Hussein public hospital in Bethlehem city to Marah Maalla. The body was first taken to the family, where Taqatqa’s relatives and friends said their final farewells.
Mourners, waving the yellow and green flags of the Fatah and Hamas movement, carried Taqatqa’s body as the crowd chanted to denounce the half-century Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and demanded that Palestinian fighters retaliate for the killing of Taqatqa and other “martyrs” — a common term that refers to any Palestinian killed by Israeli forces and settlers.
In Hebron, a funeral was held for Rafaat Hirbawi, 29, who was killed on July 18 after carrying out a vehicular attack that injured three Israeli soldiers.
Mourners carried Hirbawi’s body from the al-Ahli hospital in Hebron city to his family’s home Wadi al-Karm in Hebron City. His body was then carried to al-Hussein Ibn Ali Mosque for prayers, before being buried in the city’s “Martyrs’ Cemetery,” where Palestinians killed by Israelis are laid to rest.
Meanwhile a funeral was held in the Ramallah-area village of Kafr Ein for 33-year-old Ammar Ahmad Khalil Tirawi, 34, who was shot dead on July 16 by Israeli forces during a detention raid. Israeli forces had accused Tirawi of being behind two shooting incidents a day earlier.
Mourners carried Tirawi’s body wrapped in a Palestinian flag from the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah city to an ambulance, which drove the body to his hometown.
His body was taken to the village’s mosque for funeral prayers, then to the cemetery, where he was laid to rest.
Tirawi’s mother told reporters that he “chose to die as a martyr and was executed by Israeli forces” on the day he was supposed to visit the family of a young woman and officially propose to her.
The grieving mother added that Tirawi had been shot in the head by Israeli forces in 2000, when he was only 17 years old, only to be imprisoned for eight years after having recovered from the life-threatening surgery.
During the funeral, Ramallah district Governor Laila Ghannam said that the Palestinian people were “still giving martyrs for the sake of freedom and independence, while the Israeli occupation’s government is still practicing the ugliest crimes against the Palestinian people through murders and executions.”
Israel’s policy of withholding Palestinian bodies
Israel has justified its policy of withholding Palestinian bodies killed by Israeli forces, claiming that the funerals provide grounds for “incitement” against the Israeli state, though the practice has been widely condemned by rights groups as an act of collective punishment and deemed ineffective by Israeli security officials.
The policy has become so ingrained in the political climate of the occupied territory, that Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, mostly during clashes, are quickly buried by their families in order to avoid the mourning that ensues when Israeli forces seize the corpses.
A member of Ir Amim, an Israeli rights organization, told Ma’an that there have also been cases of Israeli forces digging up these graves in order to confiscate the corpses from the families.
The four slain Palestinians returned to their families for burial were among 53 Palestinians killed this year by Israelis. During the same time period, 13 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, nine of whom were uniformed Israeli officers.
Scores of Palestinians have been killed in the past two years for alleged or actual attacks on Israelis, and during clashes with Israeli forces since a wave of unrest began in October 2015.
Palestinians have cited the daily frustrations and regular Israeli military violence imposed by Israel’s nearly half century occupation of the Palestinian territory as main drivers of Palestinian attacks on Israelis.