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Buried on his birthday: Palestinians mourn 23-year-old shot by Israeli forces

Family remembers Ahmed Omar, who was killed on Monday, as a devoted participant in the Great March of Return
Amira Omar shows a photo of her slain brother Ahmed (MEE/Mohammed Asad)

Ahmed Omar should have celebrated his birthday on Tuesday.

“We were supposed to cover a cake with 24 candles today to celebrate Ahmed,” his sister Amira tells Middle East Eye.

“He was joking yesterday that he wanted a gift for his birthday. I told him ‘I will bring you the most beautiful gift,’” Ahmed’s mother Amina recalls, clutching her son’s birth certificate.

Amina Omar grieves the loss of her son Ahmed, killed a day before his birthday (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
But instead of celebration, the young Palestinian’s family and friends came together on his birthday to watch as his body was lowered into the ground.

Ahmed Mohammed Omar was killed by Israeli forces on Monday while participating in a demonstration in the north of the Gaza Strip, near the Erez checkpoint between the blockaded Palestinian territory and Israel.

Relatives described the young resident of al-Shati refugee camp as ambitious, generous, and hardworking - working at a petrol station or in carpentry to help his family financially, with hopes of getting married and starting a family soon.

“He has left us forever and left an aching in our hearts when he was always keen to bring a smile to our faces,” his sister Amira says.

Amina Omar shows her son's birth certificate during his funeral - on the same day as his birthday (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
Ahmed’s death has left his family in shock - even as they recall how the young man knew that, by attending protests as part of the Great March of Return, he was putting his life on the line.

“Ahmed would bid me farewell every time he went out to demonstrations, which he considered a national duty,” Amina says of her son.

“Ahmed was a believer and… he chose his path to defend his homeland. He did not skip a day to go protest at the boundary, whether in Gaza City, in the north or in the south [of the Gaza Strip]. He was present in all areas, and he would encourage his friends during the marches.”

According to Abdallah Omar, one of Ahmed’s cousin, the killed young man was struck by the same live bullet that hit and killed another Palestinian - identified by the Gaza health ministry as 34-year-old Mohammed Abu Naji - during Monday’s protest.

Ahmed and Mohammed were two of six Palestinians killed by Israelis in the span of 24 hours alone across the occupied Palestinian territory on Monday.

“Emboldened by the total support of the US administration, Israel has stepped up its criminality and policy of summary executions targeting Palestine’s innocent victims with deliberate cruelty and impunity,” Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement on Tuesday.

Relatives grieve at Ahmed Omar's funeral (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
“I ask the Western world, which is watching us and enjoying the sound of our suffering, of the necessity to stand firm and to restore the rights of the Palestinian people,” Amina says. “And I also call on the neglectful Arab [states] who are failing to serve the Palestinian cause.”

In total, the Gaza health ministry has reported that Israeli forces have killed more than 183 Palestinians and injured over 18,000 in the small coastal enclave since the beginning of the Great March of Return on 30 March.

Ahmed’s sister Amina recalls how, only two days earlier, the young man had come home from a demonstration covered in blood, after having carried a wounded friend who had been struck in the head by a tear gas canister.

Ahmed, she says, was wearing the same, freshly washed clothes when he was shot. But no one was able to save him.

- Mohammed Asad contributed reporting from Gaza.

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