Thousands attend funerals of teenagers shot by Israeli army

Thursday 04 April 2013 17.01
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Palestinian honour guards carry the bodies of Amer Nasser and Naji Balbisi through Anabta
Palestinian honour guards carry the bodies of Amer Nasser and Naji Balbisi through Anabta
Palestinian officials gave Maysara Abu Hamdeya full military honours at a funeral in Hebron
Palestinian officials gave Maysara Abu Hamdeya full military honours at a funeral in Hebron

Thousands of mourners turned out for the funerals of three Palestinians, including two teenagers killed by Israeli army gunfire.

There has been an upsurge of unrest in the West Bank, triggered by the death of Maysara Abu Hamdeya, a 64-year-old Palestinian prisoner suffering from cancer.

Hamdeya was serving a life term for attempted murder after sending a suicide bomber to a Jerusalem cafe in 2002.

Palestinian officials accused Israel of delaying treatment for Hamdeya and gave him full military honours at a funeral today in Hebron.

Israeli authorities said he was a heavy smoker and had received adequate care while in prison.

In the wave of disturbances that followed Hamdeya's death, four Palestinian youths threw firebombs at an Israeli checkpoint near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank yesterday.

Soldiers returned fire and killed two teenagers from the nearby town of Anabta - Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Israel's use of lethal force showed that it wanted to "provoke chaos" in the Palestinian Territories and avoid any moves toward a peace deal.

The violence erupted two weeks after US president Barack Obama paid his first official visit to the region.

He urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume long-stalled peace talks but offering no initiative to break the deadlock.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to Jerusalem again next week to review the stalemate.

The United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Israeli forces had killed nine Palestinians, most of them in clashes in the West Bank, so far this year, compared with three in the same period in 2012.

Israeli officials urged Palestinian leaders to push for calm, and dismissed suggestions that a third uprising, or Intifada, was brewing in the West Bank.

"The term 'Third Intifada' is meant to describe a general breakdown and uprising ... There are no powers there pushing for a third Intifada or general uprising," senior defence official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio.

The Israeli army said that for a third straight day, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel.

No casualties or damage were reported.

Following initial rocket fire on Tuesday, Israeli jets carried out their first air strike on Gaza since a truce ended several days of fighting in November.

An al-Qaeda linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed responsibility for rocket attacks on Tuesday and yesterday, saying it was responding to the death of Hamdeya.

Israel says Gaza's ruling Hamas movement bears overall responsibility for any rocket fire and has urged Egypt, which helped broker the November truce, to use its influence with the Islamist group.

"The Egyptians are very active. Dialogue with them is constant and their interest is in keeping stability and preventing firing, violence and terrorism," Mr Gilad said.