Dozens of protesters gathered on a main road in Bethlehem on Friday, demanding the release of several Palestinian bodies being held by Israeli authorities. Protesters gathered at a main intersection in the occupied West Bank city, and marched their way toward the northern side of the Israeli separation wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
By the time protesters reached the wall, many stayed back out of fear of arrest or injury. At least two dozen Palestinian protesters and around a dozen Scottish activists approached the main military door in the wall, chanting national slogans and demanding the remains of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces be released to loved ones.
The Israeli government is refusing to release the bodies of eight Palestinians killed since September 2015 during attempted, alleged, or actual attacks. While 28 bodies had originally been held, the Israeli government has released the remains of the other 20. The remaining eight are the remains of Palestinians accused of being affiliated with the Hamas movement.
The mother and father of Abed al-Hamid Abu Srour, a teenager who committed an explosive attack on an Israeli bus last year, killing himself and injuring at least 20 Israelis were present at the protest. Abu Srour’s attack took place on April 18, 2016, and Israeli authorities have refused demands to release his remains his parents, who hope to give their son a proper burial.
Scottish activists joined the protest, singing songs about peace and freedom for Palestine next to the separation wall.
Before shooting tear gas, Israeli forces released sound bombs very close to protesters.
One young woman, a Palestinian journalist, was hit in the leg by shrapnel from a sound bomb and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital in a passerby’s car.
Eventually, Israeli forces began firing tear gas from hand-held launchers, and protesters had to flee the area until the gas cleared.
Once the tear gas was swept away by the wind, protesters came up from side roads and buildings and returned to the separation wall.
When it was clear protesters were not going to disperse early, Israeli forces opened the large door in the wall, and released a military jeep with tear gas munitions mounted on the roof.
An elderly man, known as “Behimish,” (which literally translates to “I don’t care”) because of the way he confronts Israeli forces, stands in the middle of the road, blocking an Israeli jeep from speeding down toward protesters to release tear gas.
The jeep eventually got around the elderly man and began shooting off copious amounts of tear gas.
Protesters abandon the streets when gas is shot off by the jeeps. Severe tear gas inhalation can cause serious health problems, particularly for the very young and very old.
Protesters refused to allow the gate to close for several minutes. Using their bodies to stop the gate from closing while verbally confronting Israeli forces.
In addition to the eight bodies being held by Israeli forces from the last 16 months of upheaval, it is estimated that Israel is withholding more than 262 more Palestinian bodies, according to Palestinian official numbers, however, Israel has stated only 119 remains of Palestinians are being withheld.