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Thousands gather to mourn Palestinian teen shot dead during clashes

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Qusay Hassan al-Umour’s 24-year-old brother collapsed, limp and trembling — his hair wet with sweat, his face somehow simultaneously flushed red and pale. In the mosque across the road, Qusay’s body was being prepared by the local sheikh for a traditional Islamic martyr’s burial. An uncle held his older brother’s hair back while a doctor took his pulse. He’d gone into shock.

Qusay, 17, was shot dead during clashes in Tuqu village on Monday afternoon. While an Israeli army spokesperson said youth in the village had started a “violent riot” of hundreds, locals said there were less than a dozen teens from the village throwing rocks at Israeli military jeeps before the shooting.

Qusay Hassan al-Umour’s brother collapsed after going into shock.  (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

According to locals, clashes started after Israeli jeeps were spotted driving up to the village property line in a nearby field. Israeli military presence is common in the village, which lies just over some hills from the illegal Israeli settlement of Tekoa.

The Israeli army spokesperson made no mention of weapons used by the young men, stating only that Palestinians were throwing rocks. Video taken during the shooting shows Qusay several hundred meters away from Israeli forces when he was shot dead. In the video Israeli forces then rushed in, tackling Qusay, who was lying nearly lifeless on the rocky ground under the shade of an olive tree older than him.

Four soldiers — one clutching each limb — hurried back to their jeeps, Qusay’s head bouncing on the concrete as they went.

“The way they dragged him to the military jeeps was brutal,” Qusay’s uncle said, speaking to reporters. “Nobody in the world would do that.”

“What would you tell the world about someone who killed a child this way?” he asked. “Is this criminal behavior? Is this the behaviour of terrorists?”

Members of Qusay al-Umour’s family breakdown as the teen’s body is marched out of the hospital. (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

Ahmad al-Umour, Qusay’s cousin who was at the scene of the shooting, told Mondoweiss he saw Israeli soldiers dragging Qusay away from where he had been shot without attempting to provide treatment.

“They left him bleeding for an hour and a half without offering any first aid,” he said. “Then after the villagers tried to rush through to help him, the soldiers took him to a military base at the entrance of the village, where they notified the Palestinian liaison office that he had been killed. It wasn’t until after that the Palestinian Red Crescent was allowed to collect his body.”

By the time Qusay arrived at al-Hussein hospital in Bethlehem, he was beyond help. A doctor at the hospital told Mondoweiss that Qusay had been shot once directly in the heart, and again in the chest, hip and leg.

Mourners escort the teen’s body to the village. (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

Hundreds of mourners arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning to escort the teen’s body to the village. Along the way, several Israeli military jeeps were stationed on the side of the road, causing a confrontation with mourners in the funeral procession.

(Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

In the village it was clear clashes had been ongoing throughout the night. Rubble from broken rocks were strewn about the road, and a pile of still burning tires festered, black smoke and the putrid smell of burning rubber filling the air.

Youth from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wore dark shirts emblazoned with the young face of Yassir Arafat across their chests while black masks obscured their faces. The youth struggled over each other at the back of the ambulance, each one desperate to have the honor of carrying their fallen friend through the city to his mother’s home so she could say her final farewell.

Youth from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

As the procession reached the family’s home, the haunting howls of women in mourning echoed through the walls across the crowd of thousands gathered outside.

“They’re terrorists, they’re tyrants,” his mother, Fatima al-Umour, wailed, barely able to hold her head up. “They didn’t allow me to see him. They didn’t aid him,” she said — her thoughts disjointed as she recalled the day before.

(Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

When she’d heard of her son’s shooting, Fatima said she rushed to the field where her son was killed, begging Israeli forces to let her through to see him, but was denied.

“They dragged him away and we didn’t know where he was,” she said. “They took him behind the jeep, tore his clothes off then they threw him on the ground and left him alone.”

“They have destroyed me. May God bring them to justice,” she cried, before resting her head on an a relative’s arm. “Oh my love, they tortured you, they dragged you,” she exclaimed.

Only close family, friends and a handful of media were allowed into the cemetery, while thousands of others watched, pressed against the cemetery’s gated walls as Qusay’s body was lifted down into the carefully dug grave.

Qusay Hassan al-Umour’s mother (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

Qusay’s brother, who had collapsed earlier, was helped to the side of his grave, where he took off his shoes, sat cross-legged and wept.

“He could have been buried at the cemetery reserved for martyrs,” one of Qusay’s cousins explained. “But that cemetery is out of the village, and his mom and dad wanted him close to their home so they could visit him often.”

Qusay al-Umour’s body is lowered into his final resting place (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

Qusay’s cousin Ahmad said the 17-year-old was an outstanding student in his last year of high school.

Qusay was very popular among his peers,” Ahmad said. “He always helped everyone. He helped his classmates with their studies. He was a sociable kid.”

At least 248 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have been killed since the start of upheaval in October 2015, according to documentation by Ma’an News Agency.

Qusay al-Umour’s father standing over the grave of his 17-year-old son (Photo: Sheren Khalel/Mondoweiss)

Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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2 Responses

  1. gamal on January 17, 2017, 11:25 am

    we going across your border, you know out of babylon

  2. GodWPalestine on January 18, 2017, 4:04 am

    Allah yerhamo o yerham sha3b falastine.
    May Allah bless his soul and gives him part of Paradise, the poor kid didn’t get to see much of the evilness of life on “hell” Alhamdulillah he is looked after in a better place now!
    How much damage or pain can a pebble or even a stone do to a military vehicle or a soldier with a bullet proof jacket and helmet, shooting in cold blood is not an excuse even the devil won’t justify it, I wonder what these cold blooded soldiers been fed and what kind of therapy they go through to be convinced that it’s ok to kill then later get married and have their own families which they don’t deserve!!!
    Jews people say that Palestine is theirs following the Bible, so basically they follow Jesus’s book and call themselves Jews!!
    Besides, in another topic they ironically say that Palestinians are going to be the majority there, but we all know that nothing is impossible especially these days the majority of educated Israelis leave the country for good and obtain another foreign citizenship for obvious reasons: Israel is not the place for them!!
    I want to understand if the Jews were thrown out of Egypt and poor Moses led them to Palestine back then then how can they say that Judaism and Abraham their father born in Palestinian lands and built temples etc.?
    It’s a shame, there are lots of nice Jews out there that believe in peace but it’s not the same peace the Israeli government is “working” on!

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