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Israeli police injures dozens, one seriously, during East Jerusalem funeral

July 2, 2017 10:43 P.M. (Updated: July 3, 2017 2:00 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Dozens of Palestinians were injured, at least one seriously, and one young man was detained on Sunday evening in occupied East Jerusalem when the funeral for a Palestinian who drowned three days earlier devolved into clashes.

Ali Abu Gharbiyeh, 24, drowned in Lake Tabariya in northern Israel on Friday, with his body washing ashore on Sunday morning.

Locals said Israeli forces deployed heavily in the Suwwana neighborhood immediately after Abu Gharbiyeh's body arrived at al-Maqasid hospital to be shrouded. When the funeral procession arrived at the entrance of the neighborhood, as mourners waved Palestinian flags, Israeli forces stormed the procession, fired stun grenades, and started to seize the flags.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that Israeli police prevented Abu Gharbiyeh's funeral procession from passing through the neighborhood because the participants were waving Palestinian flags, “shouting slogans,” and “acting disorderly.”

Funeral attendees then began throwing stones at police forces, al-Samri added, injuring one officer, who was treated at the scene, in the face.

Israeli police then used “riot dispersal means,” al-Samri said, without elaborating.

However, Ma'an witnessed Israeli forces firing rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, and sound bombs at the funeral procession.

The Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma’an that at least 35 Palestinians were injured during the clashes. Nine were hospitalized and the rest were treated by medics at the scene.

At least one funeral goer was seriously wounded after being hit with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the head, the Red Crescent said, adding that the bullet was lodged in his head and that he was suffering from internal bleeding, in addition to shrapnel having lodged itself in his eye.

A spokesperson for Hadassah hospital, where the Red Crescent said the man was taken for treatment, was not immediately available for comment on Sunday evening.

Mourners continued to march on the main road until they reached the Lions Gate entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, and were met by Israeli police vehicles and infantrymen.

When the funeral processes started to pass through the gate into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to perform the funeral prayer, Israeli forces started again to indiscriminately fire stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets. Mourners who were carrying the body were coerced to wait some 15 minutes outside of the compound before they were finally allowed to go in.

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“Police will not allow the exploitation of a funeral procession to include hostile national features and disorderly acts by any party,” al-Samri said in the police statement, adding that police was working to apprehend those involved in the clashes.

Locals later reported that young Palestinian man named Muhammad Zein was detained immediately after the funeral.

Israeli police and soldiers have come under heavy criticism over the years for what rights groups have referred to as excessive use of force against Palestinians who did not pose an immediate threat or who could have been handled through non-lethal means, particularly during clashes.

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