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Six years later, Abu Rahmeh family still fighting for justice

April 11, 2015 1:10 P.M. (Updated: April 13, 2015 10:58 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Next week will mark six years since Bilin resident Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed by Israeli forces, and six years of "foot dragging" by the Israeli justice system in properly closing a case on his death, says family and Israeli rights groups.

Abu Rahmeh, 30, was struck in the chest by a tear-gas canister on April 17, 2009 at a protest in the village of Bilin, and died shortly afterward from his wounds.

The Abu Rahmeh family, joined by village residents and international activists, will visit his memorial next Friday before the weekly demonstration against the separation wall, which cuts across Bilin residents' land, Bassem's cousin Jaber Abu Rahmeh told Ma'an.

"Abu Rahmeh was killed by shooting carried out by IDF soldiers that was negligent at best," attorneys Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man and Michael Sfard wrote in their petition against a court decision to close the case, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

"The case file of the investigation of the circumstances of his death has been wallowing for years under unpardonable foot-dragging by the investigative and prosecutorial authorities."

In response to the attorneys' argument that basic investigative acts have never been carried out in the six years since Abu Rahmeh's death, Justice Menny Mazuz determined April 1 that the State must submit its response to the petition by May 25.

Israel's military prosecutor general decided to close the investigation into his death in September 2013 for lack of evidence, despite the fact that three video segments filmed during the protest prove that Abu Rahmah did not act violently and did not endanger the soldiers in any way, B'Tselem says.

Other soldiers in the same video can be seen firing tear-gas canisters directly at protesters in the presence of senior officers and in complete contravention of the open-fire regulations.

The army had decided to open an investigation into Abu Rahmeh's death in 2010 after a team of international experts found its forces had fired the tear gas in violation of regulations.

History of resistance

Bilin has long been one of the most active villages in organized opposition against the Israeli occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land.

This year marked the tenth consecutive year of weekly marches against the Israeli separation wall in Bilin, which was constructed on Palestinian land in 2005.

As a result, the village is a target of frequent invasion and arrest by Israeli forces.

Israeli forces have begun entering Bilin village on foot every Friday in recent months, Jaber Abu Rahmeh told Ma'an.

"In the last few months, they've started entering the village. Just yesterday they were going between houses, looking to arrest people."

Witnesses said that four Israeli military vehicles raided the village at midday Friday, arresting Samir Mohammad Burnat, 40, and taking him to an unknown destination.

"It brings me back to the past," sad Abu Rahmeh, referring to the period of heaviest clashes between Israeli forces and residents between 2007-09 when Israeli forces would enter the village nearly every day.

Last Friday Israeli forces entered the village before demonstrations began, cornered a Bilin resident, and shot him from close range, Abu Rahmeh told Ma'an.

In 2011, the separation wall in Bilin was rerouted in response to international condemnation.

However, weekly demonstrations continue every Friday as the wall still cuts through village lands, separating residents from their property, and nearby settlements continue to grow at the village's expense.
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