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Palestinian dies weeks after being shot by Israeli forces in al-Duhiesha

Sept. 3, 2017 5:04 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2017 4:54 P.M.)
Raed al-Salhi, pictured holding a flag for the leftist PLO faction the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A 22-year-old Palestinian succumbed to critical injuries in an Israeli hospital on Sunday, weeks after he was shot by Israeli forces during a violent detention raid into al-Duheisha refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem.

Raed al-Salhi was shot multiple times in the chest at close range, puncturing his liver, during a predawn military raid on Aug. 9. Another resident of the camp Aziz Arafeh was also shot in the leg.

The two injured young men were detained by Israeli forces and taken to Israel's Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. Arafeh has reportedly remained in a stable condition.

Head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe told Ma’an on Sunday afternoon that al-Salhi succumbed to his wounds. Qaraqe said he held Israel responsible for the young man’s death, and condemned is Israeli forces for targeting al-Salhi with live ammunition at point blank range.

Palestinian prisoners' solidarity network Samidoun reported that during the weeks following his detention, al-Salhi, held in the intensive care unit in a coma, was denied family visits and heavy guarded despite his unconsciousness and severe medical condition.

Shortly after the announcement of al-Salhi's death, mourners launched a march in al-Duheisha, chanting condolences to his mother and calling for revenge for the killing.

It was later reported that locals in al-Duhiesha refugee camp decided to ban all press from covering al-Salhi's funeral, due to the apparent lack of coverage by local media outlets during the weeks of al-Salhi's hospitalization, according to al-Duheisha al-Hadath, a Facebook page reporting on local events in the camp and across the occupied West Bank.

It remained unclear when the funeral would be held or when al-Salhi's body would be handed over by Israeli authorities, who routinely detain the bodies of slain Palestinians for extended periods and impose strict restrictions on their funerals.

At the time of the shooting, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that during a raid to detain the two Palestinians, “the suspects attempted to flee the area,” at which point Israeli army soldiers began to chase the Palestinians on foot.

“During the pursuit, soldiers opened fire towards the suspects, injuring them. They were treated at the scene and then evacuated to a hospital for further medical treatment,” the spokesperson said.

Al-Salhi and Arafeh were both presumably unarmed when they were shot, particularly as Israeli army spokespersons will mention when Palestinians throw rocks or Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers during such raids into al-Duheisha.

Lawyer for the prisoners’ committee Karim Ajwa had stated in a report on Aug. 14 that there had been a slight improvement in al-Salhi’s health, who was in the intensive care unit under anesthesia and breathing using a respirator.

Ajwa reported last Wednesday that he was being held under strict security guard at the hospital despite his severe health condition.

During his imprisonment in the hospital, al-Salhi's family members were reportedly denied permits to visit him under the pretext of an ongoing interrogation.

“All of the family’s attempts to obtain a permit to visit have failed. The occupation authorities are preventing all members of his family from visiting him to check on his health. The last attempt was several weeks ago by his mother, who suffers from several diseases herself and cannot sleep due to her worry,” Khaled al-Salhi, Raed’s brother, recently told al-Quds News.

Al-Salhi’s detention was extended multiple times by Israel's Ofer military court while he was in a coma, according to Samidoun, while on Aug. 29, Arafeh was brought to the court on a hospital bed to further extend his imprisonment before he was moved to the Ramla prison clinic.

Meanwhile, al-Salhi’s brother Bassam al-Salhi was detained during a raid into al-Duheisha refugee camp on Aug. 16.

The leftist faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) issued a statement Sunday, saying that “Palestine, Duheisha camp, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have lost a courageous struggler committed to liberation of the Palestinian people from Zionist occupation. This young man was committed in his veins with loyalty to the Palestinian cause and his people.”

In the statement, the party said that al-Salhi “was always present to confront the occupation in Bethlehem area,” and that the young man was also known for his commitment to volunteer activities, including health support days and other social activities to support the people of the camp.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Due to the typically aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries.

Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, particularly in refugee camps, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response.

In July, 18-year-old Baraa Hamamda, a resident of al-Duheisha, succumbed to wounds sustained in his upper body after he was shot by Israeli forces during a raid into the camp.

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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