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IN PICTURES: Town near Hebron holds large funeral for 4 slain Palestinians

Saeir, a town north of Hebron, has been a hot spot for clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians
Mourners carry the body of Muhannad Kawazbeh towards the cemetery in Saeir (MEE/Abdallah Mutan)

SAEIR, West Bank - Thousands gathered in the small town of Saeir on Saturday to mourn the deaths of four Palestinian teens who were killed by Israeli forces after allegedly trying to stab Israeli soldiers.

Israeli authorities returned the bodies to the families late Friday night. The families waited in the rain and cold at Tarqumiya checkpoint, a point of entry located around 45 minutes from the Hagai settlement.

At the funeral, whose processions stretched from the town’s mosque towards the cemetery, mourners were seen shouting angry slogans and demanding revenge.

The Palestinian health ministry said three of the Palestinians were cousins from Saeir, a town north of Hebron. The ministry identified them as Muhannad Kawazbeh, 18; Ahmad Kawazbeh, 19; and A'laa Kawazbeh, 19.

The fourth Palestinian who was shot dead is Khalil Mohamad Shalaldeh, a 16-year-old also from Saeir. Khalil was slain in the same area where Israeli police forces killed his brother Mohammad Shalaldeh, 24, in November.

“We are saying goodbye to our beloved ones today, I lost my son and his friends who I used to see together. We are sad, but we know that the freedom will cost us more lives and we will pay. As long as there is occupation, there will be martyrs,” Zeyad Kawazbeh, the father of Muhannad Kawazbeh, said.

“I was watching my son grow up, he had dreams and ambitions and he loved life, but Israel is an occupation authority. This is what it does; killing dreams and lives,” he said.

Following the end of the funeral, clashes broke out with the Israeli army around the Beit Einoon Junction near Saeir, where Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

“Khalil was very sad for losing his brother, he always repeated: I will never forget my brother and our life together,” Fahim Shalaldeh, the father of the two boys, said.

The father described his sons as kids who loved their land. “My sons were angry of the general situation of what was happening in Hebron and Saeir particularly; the Israelis closed the area, they paralysed the movement of citizens”, he told MEE.

Despite Israel’s attempts to stop more attacks in Hebron, hundreds of Palestinian youths are taking part in almost daily clashes in various hot spots around the city, especially near Saeir, where 10 people have died since the beginning of the unrest.

Kamel Hamid, the governor of Hebron, said: “The occupation does not care about Palestinian lives. The occupation wants to ban Palestinians from reaching many sites such as ‘Etzion’ area and the area around the Ibrahimi Mosque in the heart of Hebron, and the price of approaching them is death."

Hamid said that “the occupation targeted the town of Seir, and encircled it by settlements; its location is a thorn in the side of settlement expansion”.

On Friday, Israeli forces prohibited entry of the bodies of the Palestinians into central Saeir. Only the ambulance was allowed to pass through the town’s entrance, while everyone else was forced to enter the town through bumpy dirt roads and other remote villages and towns.

All five main entrances into Saeir have been closed for three days.

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