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Israeli police detain grieving father, cousin of Palestinian slain in Jerusalem

July 24, 2017 1:35 P.M. (Updated: July 25, 2017 11:04 A.M.)
Hassan Abu Ghannam, father of 20-year-old Muhammad
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- As the family of 20-year-old Muhammad Abu Ghannam continued to grieve his death at the hands of Israeli forces during violent clashes around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday, Israeli police have detained his father and cousin.

Abu Ghannam was among three young Palestinian men to be killed Friday in the Jerusalem area, as Israeli forces and settlers attacked thousands of protesting worshipers who prayed in the streets, calling for the removal of new security measures at Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam and a national symbol for Palestine.

Israeli forces raided the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Tur around dawn on Monday and detained Abu Ghannam’s father Hassan and his cousin Ismail, head of the neighborhood's follow-up committee Mufid Abu Ghannam told Ma'an.

The two were taken to a police station for interrogation. However, an Israeli police spokesperson told Ma’an that he was not aware of the detentions, or of any detentions being carried out in Jerusalem on Monday.

The raid came hours after Hassan and his wife Suzan, Abu Ghannam’s mother, gave an interview to Ma’an recounting the day they learned their son had died.

The bereaved mother said that she, Muhammad, and her husband had been praying outside of the Lions’ Gate entrance to Al-Aqsa together for the past week to protest the new metal detectors at the holy site, installed in the wake of a deadly shootout between Palestinian assailants and Israeli border guards.

Palestinians and rights groups have denounced the security measures as collective punishment and a violation of the right to freedom of worship.

"He woke up on Friday at around 11 a.m. I left to Al-Aqsa Mosque, prayed outside the Lions' Gate, and went back home,” Suzan said. “Minutes later, I heard heavy gunfire so I called my sister to ask what was happening. A few minutes after that, people were shouting that Muhammad had died a martyr.”
Suzan Abu Ghannam grieves hours after her son's killing on July 21.

"It is not a pity to die in sacrifice for Al-Aqsa -- We are all ready to die for Al-Aqsa," the bereaved mother said, but she regretted not being able to say goodbye to her son or hug him one last time. “I wish so badly I could have held him, but the occupation was trying to detain his body, so people were forced to hide the body and bury him immediately.”

Hassan also recalled the moment he received a call telling him his son had been shot. "I immediately went to al-Makassed hospital, where I was told that he was in the operating room. Then they told me he died a martyr."

Israeli forces, he added, attempted to break into the hospital several times to seize Abu Ghannam's body, "but thank God we managed to bury him, as was his destiny. He had been shot in the chest -- his body was covered with blood."

Shocking footage emerged of Palestinians frantically hauling Abu Ghannam's body over a wall behind the al-Makassed hospital to avoid Israeli forces confiscating the body, as Israeli authorities commonly seize and withhold the remains of slain Palestinians to use then as bargaining chips.

Israeli forces succeeded in storming the hospital later in the day seeking to detain wounded protesters, after al-Makassed had called on international organisations like the World Health Organization and Red Cross to intervene “and put an end to the chaos caused by the raids carried out by the Israeli occupation forces inside the Hospital’s grounds and premises.”

The bereaved father said his son had been “defending Al-Aqsa with me and his mother, along with thousands of Jerusalemites.”

"We used to go to the mosque together every day. He was completely fearless of falling prey to the detention campaigns and the oppression by the Israeli forces," Hassan said, only hours before he was arrested himself.

Israeli forces routinely target the family members of Palestinians killed by Israelis. At the time of Abu Ghannam's killing, an Israeli police spokesperson said that police received reports that an "injured local resident," who was allegedly involved in throwing fireworks at Israeli forces in al-Tur, had died in the hospital, and that police were "looking into the incident."

Hassan told Ma’an that his son, a sophomore at Birzeit University studying computer science, “knew the Quran by heart and never said no to me."

"He wished he could die a martyr -- and his wish came true."
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