HEBRON, West Bank » Thousands of Palestinians marched through the streets of Hebron today, chanting anti-Israel slogans and waving green Hamas flags during a funeral procession for a teenager killed by Israeli troops in this volatile West Bank city.
Dozens of youths clashed with Israeli soldiers throughout the day, throwing stones and bottles while troops responded with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. No serious injuries were reported.
Wednesday’s shooting of 17-year-old Mohammed Suleima has raised tensions in Hebron, where several hundred ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers live in heavily fortified enclaves in the midst of more than 180,000 Palestinians.
The shooting occurred near a holy site known to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. Tradition holds that it is the place where their shared patriarch, Abraham, or Ibrahim to Muslims, bought a burial plot.
Israel’s paramilitary border police force said it shot Suleima after he brandished a gun that later turned out to be fake. But relatives of the Palestinian youth said he was unarmed.
The relatives initially said Suleima had been hard of hearing and did not hear soldiers’ orders for him to halt. But family members later said the boy’s hearing was fine.
Some 5,000 people joined today’s funeral procession, praising God and vowing revenge. “Our blood will redeem the martyr,” the crowd chanted.
Suleima’s body was wrapped in a green Hamas shroud as it was carried on a stretcher through the streets. Dozens of people held green Hamas flags aloft during the procession. Suleima’s family is known to support Hamas, and his brother was released last year in a prisoner swap between Hamas andIsrael that freed an Israeli soldier held for five years in Gaza.
The march was a rare show of force in the West Bank by Hamas, whose members have been subjected to both Israeli and Palestinian crackdowns since the Islamic militant group seized power in the Gaza Strip five years ago, leaving the Palestinians’ Western-backed president, Mahmoud Abbas, in control only of the West Bank.
But the two sides have made gestures toward each other following an eight-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip last month and Abbas’ successful bid at the United Nations to win international recognition of a de facto Palestinian state.