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Masked Youths Clash With Israeli Soldiers Following Funeral of West Bank Teenager

One young man told VICE News that Palestinian youth felt they had no choice but to fight back physically against Israeli occupation: "We're just young kids, but this is what we know — it's not a choice."
October 6, 2015, 3:15pm
Imagen por Harriet Salem

Clashes broke out near Aida camp in northern Bethlehem on Tuesday as hundreds of mourners attending the funeral of 13-year-old Abdul-Rahman Obeidallah went head-to-head with Israeli soldiers on the streets of the West Bank city.

Israeli soldiers stationed beneath the graffiti-adorned wall that separates the West Bank fired hundreds of stun grenades, tear gas, and used water cannon against protestors who set barricades alight and hurled rocks and marbles with slingshots.

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According to medics, live ammunition was also fired at demonstrators, with at least two young men had being rushed to hospital with bullet wounds.

Outside the camp groups of masked youths, many teenagers, waved the flags of Palestine and Fatah, the ruling party in West Bank, as well as other local political factions. Many carried baseball bats and knives.

Photo by Harriet Salem

One young man, wearing a T-shirt featuring Yasser Arafat (former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization), said that Palestinian youth felt they had no choice but to fight back physically against Israeli occupation. "We're just young kids, but this is what we know and how we were raised, it's something we have to do — it's not a choice. It's what the last generation did, and the generation before and now it's our turn," he told VICE News.

Another 14 year-old boy, Lohai, said he often threw rocks at Israeli soldiers during demonstrations but "was not afraid of becoming a martyr."

Across the city the shutters of shops and businesses were firmly closed in a sign of respect to the dead boy.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem following the death of the 13-year-old in Aida refugee camp. Photo by Abed Al Haslhamoun/EPA

Obeidallah was shot in the chest during clashes between protesters and soldiers on Monday, but eyewitnesses to the incident claim he was returning home from school and was not involved in the demonstration.

A preliminary investigation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has found that the boy's death was the result of a mistake by soldiers who were aiming at an adult standing close to him and described by a senior officer as "unintentional."

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Violence has flared across West Bank and in Jerusalem over the last week. At least four Israelis have been killed in terror attacks and several more wounded, including a two-year old baby. On the other side, hundreds of Palestinians have been wounded in clashes, at least two fatally, both teenagers.

Related: Religious War Has Moved to the Forefront of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

In late September Israel's Security Cabinet pushed through a tough package of measures including permitting soldiers and police to use of .22 caliber live rounds from Ruger rifles when they judge that their own lives, or those of civilians, may be in danger, including during protests.

On Tuesday afternoon violence also broke out at a protest near Ramallah attended by a few hundred. Hebron and Beit El also saw small-scale confrontations between protesters and Israel's security forces.

There were also clashes in the northern West Bank city of Nablus after an Israeli army raid where five Palestinian men were arrested, accused of carrying out a drive-by shooting last week that killed an Israeli couple.

A Palestinian hurls a Molotov cocktail at Israeli troops during clashes in Nablus. Photo by Alaa Badarneh/EPA

With the violence showing no signs of abating there is growing fear that the violence may become a third intifada (uprising).

On Monday, several thousand right-wing Israelis gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's house to protest against his handling of the crisis. Among the protesters were MPs from his own Likud party.

Right-wing protesters holding the national flag of Israel during a demonstration outside the residence of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Abir Sultan.

Responding to the criticism later that evening Netanyahu gave the green light to security force to crackdown harder on violent protesters.

"[We will not] give immunity to any rioter, inciter or terrorist anywhere; therefore, there are no restrictions on the action of our security forces… The police are going deeply into the Arab neighborhoods, which has not been done in the past," he said after an emergency meeting of the security cabinet. "We are in a difficult struggle but one thing should be clear — we will win. Just as we defeated previous waves of terrorism, we will defeat this one, as well."

Meanwhile in a seeming backtrack on his statement at the UN General Assembly last week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Tuesday that his government remained committed to the Oslo Agreement but called on Israel to fulfill its obligations. "We don't want either military or security escalation," he said. "Israel has to stop and accept our hand reached out for a political solution in a peaceful way and not other way."

Related: Palestine Leader Scraps Oslo Accords with Israel as Flag Goes Up at the UN

Follow Harriet Salem on Twitter: @HarrietSalem