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In Photos:
Thousands attend funeral of 22-year-old slain Palestinian Raed al-Salhi

Sept. 9, 2017 4:18 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2017 10:25 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Thousands of Palestinians participated in a funeral on Saturday for 22-year-old Raed al-Salhi from al-Duheisha refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, a day after Israeli authorities returned his body.

Al-Salhi died in an Israeli hospital last week, succumbing to multiple gunshot injuries sustained during an Israeli detention raid in the camp a month ago.

The funeral procession set off from Beit Jala Governmental hospital, with thousands of mourners marching behind al-Salhi's body, carried by friends and family members.

A song by famous Syrian singer Samih Choukeir, called “The brother has returned,” was playing on loudspeakers during the funeral procession. Mourners shouted chants calling for retaliation for Israeli violence against Palestinians, and urged Palestinian parties to come together for national unity.

Some participants fired gunshots into the air and waved flags representing various Palestinian political factions.

When al-Salhi’s body arrived at al-Duheisha refugee camp, mourners placed his remains at the camp’s boys school to allow friends and family members to bid him a final farewell.

A funeral prayer was carried out at the school yard, before mourners carried al-Salhi’s body to the Martyrs’ Cemetery -- where Palestinians killed by Israeli forces are buried -- in the nearby village of Artas.

Al-Salhi was shot multiple times in the chest at close range, puncturing his liver, during a predawn military raid on Aug. 9, when he was left bleeding out for an hour and a half before being transferred for treatment at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, where he fell into a coma.

He succumbed to his wounds almost a month later. Israeli authorities then withheld al-Salhi’s body for six days, before returning it to his family on Friday.

"The occupation came to assassinate my son, not to detain him," al-Salhi’s bereaved mother told Ma’an during the funeral, adding that Sept. 9, the day of the funeral, coincided with al-Salhi’s birthday. “Here, we are celebrating his birthday again, but in a different way this time, since we are carrying him to his final resting place,” she said.

“I congratulate him on his birthday and for dying a martyr,” she added. Every now and then during the funeral, al-Salhi’s crying mother could be seen whispering into the ear of her son’s lifeless body, “congratulations, Raed, for this martyrdom.”

A general strike was also called in Bethlehem on Saturday until 3 p.m. in order to mourn the killing of al-Salhi, who was a popular and loved resident of al-Duheisha camp.

During the 29 days that al-Salhi remained in critical condition in the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem after he was shot by Israeli forces, his family was kept in the dark about his condition. It is common for Palestinian families not to receive any updates or information from Israeli authorities after their relatives are shot or killed by Israeli forces.

Social media outlet Duheisha al-Hadath reported after al-Salhi's death was announced that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine would ban a number of Palestinian news outlets from attending the funeral, due to the apparent lack of coverage by local media during the weeks of al-Salhi's hospitalization.

After al-Salhi was pronounced dead, his body was transferred to the Rishon Lezion hospital in central Israel.

Israel often delays the delivery of slain Palestinian bodies to their families in the occupied Palestinian territory, and imposes strict conditions on funerals, alleging that funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces leads to “incitement.”

Al-Salhi was the latest Palestinian to be killed during violent Israeli detention raids in the al-Duheisha camp, which occur on a nightly basis in the West Bank, while scores of others have been injured.

Like many other Palestinian youth in al-Duheisha, al-Salhi’s family reported that he had been threatened by an Israeli army commander known to locals as “Captain Nidal.”

Captain Nidal has become infamous in Bethlehem's refugee camps for routinely threatening to permanently disable local youth by shooting them in the legs and knees, in a practice referred to as “kneecapping.”

Two days before Israeli forces fatally shot al-Salhi, the family said that Captain Nidal told the young man that he would “shoot him in front of his mother.”

Rights groups have determined that the incident was an “extrajudicial killing” and possibly a “war crime of willful killing," since al-Salhi did not pose a threat to the soldiers when they riddled him with several bullets.

While the Israeli army did not respond to Ma'an's request for comment on the justification for the military raid, the army told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Israeli forces aimed to detain al-Salhi over his involvement in the left-wing group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), considered a "terrorist" organization by Israeli authorities.

Israel considers the vast majority of Palestinian political parties to be “terrorist” organizations, which rights groups have said allows Israel to criminalize Palestinian resistance and erode political life in the occupied territory.

According to Ma'an documentation, al-Salhi was the 55th Palestinian to be killed by an Israeli since the beginning of 2017. During the same time period, 13 Israelis -- almost all of whom were uniformed Israeli officers or settlers residing in Palestinian territory in violation of international law -- were killed by Palestinians.
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