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Funeral held for Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, shot in head by Israeli soldier in Hebron

May 28, 2016 7:20 P.M. (Updated: May 29, 2016 8:44 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of mourners Saturday attended the funeral of Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, a young Palestinian who was killed execution-style by an Israeli soldier in March, sparking international outrage following the release of a video capturing the incident.

The body of al-Sharif, which was returned to his family on Friday after being held by Israeli authorities for over two months, was carried by Palestinian security officers from the al-Ahli hospital in Hebron to an ambulance that took his body to mourners and family members in order for them to say their final goodbyes before the burial.

Mourners carried al-Sharif’s body while marching to Hebron’s Martyrs Cemetery in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Hariyya.

Many shouted slogans against the decades-long Israeli military occupation and the steadily increasing population of Israeli settlers illegally residing across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as they called the international community to hold Israeli leaders accountable for war crimes in international courts.

“Praise be to God,” al-Sharif’s father said during the funeral. “We managed to bury our son after an appropriate funeral despite the many restrictions enforced on us by Israel’s occupation,” he said.

Various stipulations are enforced on Palestinian families of alleged attackers when their bodies are returned after being held by Israeli authorities -- including restrictions on the number of attendees and forcing families to pay thousands of dollars in deposits -- in order to deter “incitement,” while Israeli soldiers are heavily deployed at funerals.

The father added that the trial of Elor Azarya, the Israeli soldier who killed al-Sharif, was merely an attempt by the Israeli military to “mislead international public opinion” of the everyday crimes committed against Palestinians by Israeli soldiers that are almost always met with impunity.

In a recent report released by B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group stated that out of 739 complaints of human rights abuses committed against Palestinians which were submitted to Israeli military bodies, only 3 percent resulted in charges being brought against the soldiers.

Azarya was charged with manslaughter, rather than murder as had been expected, and is being held on a military base in “open detention” where he is free to roam and has received visits from his family. His trial opened earlier this month.

Al-Sharif was shot alongside Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi after the two allegedly stabbed and moderately wounded an Israeli soldier at a military checkpoint in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron on March 24.

Al-Qasrawi was killed immediately, while al-Sharif was left severely wounded for several minutes without treatment, before Azarya stepped forward and put a bullet through his head, killing him.

A graphic video released by B’Tselem capturing the incident was met with wide condemnation from rights groups and international bodies, with the UN demanding an investigation into the soldier's apparent "extrajudicial execution."

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced on Tuesday that he had ordered Israeli police to suspend the return of bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, after seeing footage of a crowd gathering outside the funeral of one such slain Palestinian, chanting slogans including “God is great," something Erdan deemed as “incitement.”

However earlier on Friday, and in spite of the order, Israeli authorities also returned the body of a 17-year-old Palestinian girl shot dead by Israeli forces during an alleged stab attack on Monday. A spokesperson for the Israeli ministry of public security was not available for immediate comment on reasons for Sawsan Daoud Ali Mansour's and al-Sharif's bodies being returned during the suspension, or if the suspension had been removed.

Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory since October, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.

A joint statement released in early April by Addameer and the Israeli minority rights group Adalah condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as "a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture."

The statement said it appeared "many" of the Palestinians whose bodies Israel was holding had been "extrajudicially executed by Israeli forces during alleged attacks against Israelis, despite posing no danger."

Israel currently holds the bodies of at least a dozen Palestinians, killed by Israeli forces since October while they were allegedly committing or attempting to commit attacks.

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