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Agence France-Presse

Palestinians Mourn Protester Killed at Demo

Hossam Ezzedine

Mustafa Abelrazek al-Tamimi (left), 28, was taking part in a Friday protest against the West Bank barrier in Nabi Saleh, some 10 kilometres (six miles) northwest of Ramallah, when he was hit in the face by the tear gas canister, medics said. (AFP Photo/Haim Schwarczenberg)

Thousands of Palestinians gathered in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Sunday to mourn a man who died after being hit in the head by an Israeli tear gas canister.

Mustafa Abdelrazek al-Tamimi's body was taken from the city of Ramallah in a funeral procession to the central Manara Square before being driven by ambulance to his home village of Nabi Saleh.

Tamimi was critically wounded in the village on Friday by an Israeli tear gas canister that hit him in the head after being fired at close range. He was evacuated to an Israeli hospital but died the next day of his wounds.

In Nabi Saleh, around 2,000 people gathered to receive the 28-year-old's body, which was draped with the Palestinian flag, his head covered with the black-and-white checkered keffiyeh scarf.

The crowd waved Palestinian flags and the yellow flag of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, many weeping and others chanting angrily.

"Our response will come tonight," some mourners shouted, warning that "no one will stop us."

Palestinian lawmaker Walid Assaf, head of the Palestinian Legislative Council's committee against Jewish settlements, told mourners that peaceful protests should continue despite the incident.

"They want to turn our unarmed struggle into an armed struggle," he said. "But this will not change our policy of peaceful struggle against settlements and against the occupation."

Tamimi's body was taken into his mother's house, where weeping relatives surrounded him for a final goodbye before his burial at the village cemetery.

After his burial, clashes broke out as a hundreds of mourners marched towards Israeli soldiers standing by near the funeral, some of them throwing stones at the troops, who responded with clouds of tear gas.

Tamimi was hit by a canister during a weekly Friday protest against the nearby settlement of Halamish, which activists say sits on stolen village land and has blocked their access to the village spring.

A photograph distributed by activists purportedly showing Tamimi seconds before he was hit shows a tear gas canister flying towards him, apparently having been shot from the back of a military vehicle just metres (yards) away.

Tamimi was flown by helicopter to an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv after the incident.

"He was shot from close range, around 20 metres (yards), with a tear gas projectile that hit him in the eye," said Jonathan Pollak, a veteran Israeli activist who was at the demonstration.

Pollak said three other people sustained head injuries during the same demonstration.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military told AFP on Friday that around 100 Palestinians had taken part in an "illegal demonstration, during which they hurled rocks at security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means."

She said the army provided initial medical care to Tamimi and evacuated him to hospital, but could not provide further details on the incident, which she said was being investigated.

The Israeli rights group B'tselem says Tamimi was the 20th person to be killed at similar West Bank demonstrations over the past eight years. He was the first person to be killed in Nabi Saleh demonstrations in two years.

B'tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said the group was calling for a full military probe into who shot the fatal round, who ordered the shooting and the practice of firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters.

"The most serious issue is that the military is regularly firing tear gas canisters directly at Palestinian demonstrators risking their death, contrary to their orders," she told AFP.

Shawan Jabarin, head of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, condemned Tamimi's death as the result of Israeli practices "that violently deny the freedom of expression and assembly by any means necessary."

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