Mass rallies in Hebron as Israel withholds bodies

Protests over Israeli authorities' refusal to handover bodies of at least 16 Palestinians killed during alleged attacks.

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    Thousands of Palestinians have protested in Hebron as Israeli forces fired live ammo and rubber-coated bullets [EPA]
    Thousands of Palestinians have protested in Hebron as Israeli forces fired live ammo and rubber-coated bullets [EPA]

    Dozens of Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron during protests against the Israeli government's refusal to return the bodies of Palestinians killed during alleged attacks. 

    Israelis buy more guns as violence escalates

    Thousands of Palestinians protested in the city and the surrounding villages in a "Rally of Rage" called for by political factions.

    They are demanding that Israel return the bodies of 11 locals who were killed while allegedly attacking Israeli soldiers or civilians. 

    In a statement, local families called on Palestinians to "take to the streets to demand the return of the bodies of our heroic children held by the Israeli occupation forces". 


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    Israeli authorities are currently holding the bodies of at least 16 Palestinians who were fatally shot during alleged attacks, according to Palestinian officials. 

    Israeli forces injured at least 143 Palestinians during protests across the West Bank, said the Palestinian Red Crescent. 

    "I have never seen a protest like this [in Hebron] in my life," said Issa Amro, coordinator of Youth Against Settlements, a Hebron-based activist group.

    "Israeli occupation forces fired live ammo, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets [and] stun grenades even though there were no clashes taking place yet." 

    Israeli soldiers shot at least 10 protesters with live ammunition, Amro told Al Jazeera, adding that "dozens" more were arrested, "including local human rights defenders and humanitarian workers". 

    "The families of the martyrs led the march, and everyone was participating: women, men, elderly, youth, children, religious people, secular people," he said, recalling that the group marched to a checkpoint in Hebron's Old City. 


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    Speaking to Al Jazeera, an Israeli army spokeswoman said that soldiers used "riot dispersal means" against "Palestinians who were violently rioting, hurling stones and throwing molotov cocktails". 

    Meanwhile, a Palestinian has been shot and killed by Israeli forces after he allegedly attempted to stab a soldier in Hebron in the Occupied West Bank. If confirmed, the death is the third fatal shooting in the past 24 hours.

    Earlier, two Palestinians were killed after they reportedly attacked an Israeli soldier at the Gush Etzion Junction near Bethlehem, a city in the central West Bank.

    The soldier sustained moderate injuries, according to an Israeli police spokesman. 

    Triggered last month by Israeli incursions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, protests against Israel's occupation have spread throughout Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. 

    Since the beginning of the month, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 63 Palestinians, including unarmed protesters, bystanders and suspected attackers. 

    Nine Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers in stabbing or shooting incidents. 

    'Humiliation' 

    "This is collective punishment for the families and the community," Amro said.

    "It's about humiliating us. This is the real face of Israeli occupation: They don't respect our lives when we're living and even after we're dead."

    Earlier this month, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposed that the bodies of accused Palestinian attackers not be returned to their families. 

    "The terrorist's family turns the funeral into a demonstration of support for terrorism and incitement to murder," Erdan said at the time. 

    "We must not allow that. We must do everything so that the terrorist won't be able to merit honour and ceremonies after conducting an attack."

    The measure has not been introduced as a law, however. 

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implemented harsh measures intended to quell the ongoing unrest, including expedited punitive home demolitions, the closure of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and strict entry restrictions to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem. 

    Israeli forces have arrested more than 1,000 Palestinians since October 1, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, while dozens have been killed.


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    In some cases, Israeli authorities have only agreed to return the bodies with strict conditions. 

    After 19-year-old Fadi Alloun was fatally shot by Israeli police in occupied East Jerusalem earlier this month, Israeli authorities told his parents that they would return the teenager's body in exchange for a fee of 20,000 Israeli shekels ($5,200) and on the condition that only 70 people were allowed to attend his funeral. 

    Farah Bayadsi, a lawyer at the West Bank-based Addameer Prisoner Support Network, said that introducing conditions for the return of the bodies is "a clear violation of international law and the laws of war".

    "It also raises concerns that ... they are blocking independent autopsies, which may lead to findings that challenge Israel's story about the way they were killed," Bayadsi told Al Jazeera.

    "Every day that the bodies aren't returned we can expect clashes and protests to grow, especially because the situation is already tense." 

    Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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