Local Palestinian residents and Israeli troops clashed today after the funeral of a 28-year-old demonstrator, whose death from wounds inflicted by a tear gas canister fired at short range by an Israeli soldier, is now the subject of a military police investigation.
Mustafa Tamimi was shot in the head on Friday as he threw stones at an armoured jeep during a regular weekly protest by residents of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh against the expropriation of village land, and a local spring, by the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish.
Draped in a Palestinian flag, the body of Mr Tamimi, who died in an Israeli hospital after suffering critical wounds below his right eye, was carried from the local mosque to the nearby village cemetery amid chants of “He is the blood of martyrs.” Hundreds attended the ceremony. Three people were injured and eight arrested in the clashes which followed the funeral, which was also attended by dozens of Israeli and foreign activists.
Demonstration leaders charged that the fatal wounding of Mr Tamimi by a soldier who they said opened the back of the jeep to fire the tear gas canister at his head from a few metres. Such a step would be in clear breach of military regulations prohibiting such direct fire of canisters at people. The military confirmed today the shooting was being investigated by military police.
Haim Schwartzenburg, an Israeli activists and photographer who photographed Mr Tamimi and the jeep at the moment the canister was fired, said that a bulldozer had been deployed to move an obstacle made of stones designed to prevent troops entering the village. He added: "There were constant exchanges of stones and tear gas, and when the bulldozer pulled out, stones were thrown at the jeeps. A soldier from the last jeep opened the door and fired directly at Mustafa. From what I saw, there is no chance that the soldier had not seen him. After he was hit, the jeep took off without stopping. Mustafa fell, he was conscious for a few more minutes and then blood began pouring from behind his eye, and I had the feeling that he was finished.”
A reservist Israeli soldier who had served in Nabi Saleh during another unarmed Friday protest and was interviewed by the Independent in September was heavily critical of the military’s crowd control methods including what he said was the indiscriminate firing of tear gas canisters by troops. He said that he felt his work in the West Bank village—on a day when he did not see stones being thrown--“did not have any connection with defending Israel.”
The protests are among a regular series in villages across the West Bank against the military’s separation barrier or the encroachment of Jewish settlements.
The Israeli military said it used “riot dispersal means” to contain “violent and illegal riots” in the West Bank and added: “Such means were used during the course of [the] riot in Nabi Saleh. However, the IDF cannot comment on regulations regarding their usage.”