Around 30,000 people packed the streets of Nablus on Sunday chanting demands for revenge in the heart of Israel after the killings on Saturday that were strongly condemned by Palestinian premier Ahmad Quraya.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, meanwhile, hailed the army’s so-called Operation Full Court Press as an “impressive success in the fight against terrorism”.
All schools and shops were closed in Nablus as the bodies of the seven began their journey from the city’s hospital to the Martyrs’ Cemetery at around 10:30am (07:30 GMT).
Sea of flags
Scores of masked fighters from all the main Palestinian armed resistance groups fired volleys into the air amid a sea of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades flags.
“Our revenge will be tonight”
Among those who were being laid to rest was Nayif Abu Sharikh, the senior commander in the West Bank of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of the mainstream Fatah movement.
Fadi al-Bahti, a local leader of Islamic Jihad, and Jafar al-Masri, a commander of the armed wing of Hamas, were also buried.
“Our revenge will be tonight,” the crowds chanted in unison.
Many of the mourners went to the site of a hideout in Nablus’s Old City where the seven were killed in a shootout with Israeli
troops on Saturday.
Israeli forces withdrew from Nablus and a curfew was lifted at dawn on Sunday although the funerals were brought forward slightly for fear that the soldiers could soon return.
Quraya condemned the killings of the “freedom fighters” as a “savage” act.
“This savage and ugly crime, which targeted a number of Palestinian freedom fighters after a four-day siege on Nablus, signifies that Israel is continuing its plan of killings and assassinations of all the freedom fighters,” Quraya told reporters outside his offices in the West Bank city of Ram Allah.
“It’s a clear message to the whole world that Israel can either remain above the law or can be deterred and stopped,” the premier said.
Israel deputy defense minister Zeev Boim said the operation had dealt a major blow to the “terrorist infrastructure” in the northern West Bank.
Sharon hailed Nablus killings as
“It (the operation) was directed in a pinpoint manner, according to intelligence information, against the people and infrastructure of terror in Nablus, which has been the manufacturing center of terrorism in the recent period,” he told public radio.
Many of the mourners also condemned the prospect of security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan to help ensure stability after the planned withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank.
“Why is there security cooperation while we are under bullets?” they asked.
Speaking to Aljazeera, Taysir Nasr Allah, a member of the Palestinian National Council, said: “Nablus has lost, in a massacre, the best leaders.”
“The rage, prevailing Nabulsians and Nablus, is very strong. The rage is directed at the media, the Palestinian Authority and the international community which comes and goes without finding a solution to Israeli terrorism,” he said.
He went on to say that the Nablusians had suffered grave casualties and losses. “There have been nine martyrs and 55 wounded; houses have been demolished, and humanitarian situation is deteriorating but no one cares.”
“In Ram Allah, the Palestinian prime minister was holding talks with a US envoy while Nablus was under fire. What have the Nabulsians got to benefit from the talks?”