On Thursday we were heading to a demonstration against the closure of a Palestinian road near Tulkarem when we heard it had been cancelled due to the killing of two local youths the night before. As we were already on the way, we decided to attend their funeral.
The youths, aged 17 and 18, died after being shot by Israeli soldiers near a checkpoint. It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but the Israeli army said the youths had thrown molotov cocktails at the military post. The first boy, Amer, died at the scene and according to witnesses, the army would not allow anyone, including an ambulance, near him for half an hour.
Around this time, his cousin Naji was noted to be missing. Volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement offered to try to find the boy, along with Axle, one of my colleagues from IWPS who was with them at the time. It was felt that the army would be more likely to allow internationals to search for the boy than Palestinians. An ambulance agreed to take them to search for him, but before they left, some local people told them he was safe and well and the search was called off.
The volunteers went to the hospital where they met Amer’s family and photographed his body in the morgue. He had been shot in the chest.
In the early hours of the following morning, the body of his cousin Naji was found, behind a factory, shot in the back. This accords with witness accounts which report that he was running away from the soldiers at the time. He had bled to death. It looks as if he was left to die, as the soldier who shot him must have realised he had been hit.
As we approached the town of Anabta, where the boys lived, large crowds were congregating. Cars full of young men drove past, flying flags representing various different political affiliations. When we arrived at the village the shops were all closed and the atmosphere was subdued. Reporters were lining the street near the mosque. On the rooftops among the photographers, men and young boys waved the large yellow flags of Fatah. A few people looked devastated.
The funeral procession began, with men at the front carrying the bodies of the two boys on their shoulders, and women at the back. The men waved flags and chanted slogans as the procession headed first towards the boys’ family homes and then towards the mosque, ending at the cemetery, where women are not allowed. Axle marched with the procession from the start and later wrote:
‘The sound of a woman’s scream when her child has been taken from her is unmistakable. It is of love raging. We walk to their houses in a large crowd hung heavy in mourning……. The mother’s wails from the depths of their souls for the baby she will see every day and never hold again… …..This sound cannot be told objectively, it cannot be reported accurately. It is a movement; it is of love pouring from a sadistically inflicted wound. It is a command for a massive healing.’
After the funeral we were invited back to the municipality building where food was provided for the (male) mourners and us. The boys’ family homes are female space, where women gather to cry together and pay their respects. After the funeral we waited to see if there would be be any clashes between the army and youths. There wasn’t, so we went home.
Who knows what happened on Wednesday night? The boys may well have thrown molotov cocktails at the military post – the army clearly to shot to kill, which doesn’t generally happen over more minor offences such as stone-throwing. Although it should be possible to investigate the circumstances – there are usually CCTV cameras at checkpoints, and if molotov cocktails were thrown, there’d be physical evidence – it will probably never be independently investigated, so we may never know.