Israeli military fire live ammunition at Palestinian funeral procession

By agency reporter
February 4, 2008

The Israeli authorities have released the bodies of two men shot by settlers to the Palestine Red Crescent Society for burial in their home community of Beit Ummar in the Hebron District - but the mourners were then fired on with live ammunition by the IDF - writes eyewitness Doug Pritchard.

Israelis from the nearby settlement of Gush Etzion had killed the two young cousins, Mahmoud and Muhammed Sabarnah, during a recent violent confrontation. Residents of Beit Ummar now worried that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) would disrupt the men's funeral, just as they had repeatedly harassed and attacked members of the community in recent months.

After noon prayers at the mosque, in memory of the two men, now called "martyrs," a funeral procession of 3,000 mourners began carrying the bodies towards the cemetery.

Six international workers, including Christian Peacemaker Teams members Tarek Abuata and Doug Pritchard and four members of the International Solidarity Movement, positioned themselves almost at the front of the procession.

As the procession came within sight of Route 60 and the final approach to the cemetery, the Israeli Defence Force had closed a gate across the street. Before anyone reached the gate, and without any provocation or warning, the IDF began firing on the procession, first with live ammunition, and then with plastic bullets, tear gas, and concussion grenades. Three Palestinians were immediately injured near the internationals and taken away by ambulance as the outraged procession retreated.

Some mourners hurriedly carried the bodies of the Sabarnah men along a back route to the cemetery, while others threw stones at the cement IDF watchtower from which the firing had emerged. Another Palestinian fell and friends carried him away. In the cemetery, IDF soldiers arrived and ordered the mourners to leave immediately.

After a hasty burial prayer, the family and remaining mourners returned to the street. IDF jeeps then began moving up the street, firing as they came. Palestinians fled into side streets. For the next three hours, IDF patrols spread through the town, continuing to fire on small groups of retreating Palestinians, some of whom threw stones in return.

By the end of the afternoon 14 Palestinians had been wounded.

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