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Young Palestinian's killing rocks Bethlehem in spate of deadly shootings

Israeli forces killed Ahmed Manasrah at a flying checkpoint on Wednesday shortly after three other Palestinians were killed in two other incidents
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Thursday at Ahmed Manasra's funeral in the southern occupied West Bank (MEE/Akram al-Waara)
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Bethlehem

Israeli forces killed a young Palestinian man and critically wounded another at a checkpoint in the southern occupied West Bank on Wednesday, said Palestine’s health ministry in Ramallah.

Ahmed Jamal Manasrah, a 26-year-old resident of the village of Wadi Fukin, was fatally shot by soldiers in Bethlehem and quickly succumbed to his wounds after arriving at the Beit Jala Hospital, the ministry said on Wednesday.

“Ahmad has an electric personality,” Mohammed Manasrah, a cousin and best friend of the slain youth, told Middle East Eye. “He love[d] life, everyone loves him.”

The young man, who worked two jobs as a construction worker and taxi driver, was set to get engaged, Mohammed added.

The young man’s death has shocked his community - both due to the specific circumstances in which he was killed and the broader spate of killings in the past several days in the West Bank, that have led to fears that the situation will only get tenser.

Killed for helping another Palestinian

According to Mohammed, 24,  Manasrah was killed for assisting another Palestinian who had just been injured by Israeli forces.

“Ahmad was in a car with two of our cousins” on the way back home from a wedding in Duheisha refugee camp near the city of Bethlehem, his cousin and best friend Mohammed recounted to MEE.

Ahmad Manasrah was just approaching the Nashash area south of Bethlehem when another Palestinian, Alaa Ghayada, was shot by Israeli soldiers.

Manasrah stepped out of his car to check on Ghayada, and upon seeing the man was badly injured, took Ghayada to the hospital in his car while the wounded Palestinian’s wife and daughter stayed in the vehicle.

“Once he delivered Alaa to the hospital, Ahmad went back to the area to see Alaa’s family if they were okay,” Mohammed Manasrah added. “Ahmad got out of his car, got into Alaa’s car and tried to turn it on, but it didn’t work.

“The wife and the daughter were in shock, they didn’t know what was happening. The soldiers had gone back into the tower, and when Ahmad was getting out of Alaa’s car to go to his [to drive Ghayada’s family home], the soldiers shot him from the tower.”

Palestinians carry Ahmad Manasrah's body during his funeral procession on Thursday (MEE/Akram al-Waara)
Palestinians carry Ahmad Manasrah's body during his funeral procession on Thursday (MEE/Akram al-Waara)

According to Mohammed, only 15 minutes passed between the moment when Ghayada and Manasrah were shot.

Spate of killings

Manasrah's death came a day after Israeli forces killed three Palestinians and wounded more than 10 youths, a Fatah official told Middle East Eye.

Omar Abu Leila was killed in the village of Abwein on Tuesday when Israeli soldiers and border police surrounded a house in which he had been hiding.

Palestinian communities in shock after three West Bank killings
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The 19-year-old Palestinian was suspected of killing an Israeli soldier and a settler two days earlier near the illegal settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank.

Two other young Palestinian men, 21-year-old Raid Hamdan and 20-year-old Zaid Nouri, were also shot and killed by Israeli forces at a religious site near the West Bank city of Nablus that same day.

An Israeli army statement said Hamdan and Nouri were shot after explosives were hurled at a group of Jewish worshippers visiting the site they believe to be the tomb of the Prophet Joseph.

Palestinians in Abwein and Nablus later declared a day of strikes on Wednesday over the deaths. Residents of Bethlehem also declared a strike on Thursday in the wake of Manasrah’s death.

“We’re in shock after the past 24 hours,” Mohammed Manasrah said said. “All of Palestine is in mourning, is in shock, after four people were killed.”

“The martyr (Ahmad) was just trying to help someone who was injured when they shot at him from the tower,” Ibrahim Manasrah, another cousin of the slain Palestinian, told MEE.

“We don’t know why they shot at Alaa’s car, but after the attack in Ariel settlement last week, things are tense and the soldiers are on a power trip, they will kill any Palestinians who they think makes a wrong move,” the 46 year old added.

In the wake of the Ariel attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the assault and the home of the Israeli settler who was killed, a rabbi living in the Eli settlement.

Ahmad Manasrah's mother, second from right, mourns during her son's funeral on Thursday (MEE/Akram al-Waara)
Ahmad Manasrah's mother, second from right, mourns during her son's funeral on Thursday (MEE/Akram al-Waara)

During his visit, Netanyahu promised the swift punitive demolition of Abu Leila’s family home - a policy regularly used against alleged Palestinian attackers despite being denounced by rights groups as amounting to collective punishment - and vowed to push for a change in Israeli policy that would seek the death penalty for any Palestinian who commits an attack against an Israeli.

Netanyahu’s aggressive anti-Palestinian rhetoric ahead of April elections has led many to fear that his right-wing government may push more hardline action against Palestinians to score votes.

“I’m sure it is connected to the Israeli elections that are coming up,” Ibrahim Manasrah told MEE. “Netanyahu is trying to show that he is strong.

“But the way they kill us Palestinians does not scare us. We will continue our resistance to free Palestine.”

Additional reporting by Akram al-Waara in Bethlehem.