Palestinians from across the West Bank flock to the village of Al-Walaja to pay their final respects to Basel al-Araj, who was killed by the Israeli army last week near Ramallah.
Photos and text by Anne Paq and Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org
Thousands of Palestinians came from across the West Bank on March 16 to attend the funeral of Basel al-Araj, a 31-year old Palestinian activist and writer from the village of Al Walaja, near Bethlehem. Al-Araj was killed by the Israeli army on March 6th in a house in the city of Al-Bireh, where he had been hiding in for month. The army claimed he was killed after opening fire on Israeli forces.
According to Ma’an News Agency, Israeli authorities handed over his remains Friday afternoon at Israel’s 300 Checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem, after which the Palestinian Red Crescent transferred the body to Beit Jala Governmental Hospital.
An autopsy determined the main cause of death to be a bullet to the heart, although at least nine other bullet wounds were identified, according to a statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Basel was previously arrested by the Palestinian Authority in April 2016, after the PA accused him and five others of possessing illegal weapons and planning an attack on Israelis. Following a hunger strike, they were released and went into hiding.
Al-Araj’s death has prompted a surge of anger against the Palestinian Authority and its policy of security coordination with Israel. Al-Araj was killed in Area A of the West Bank, supposedly under full Palestinian control.
The five others released alongside al-Araj were immediately re-arrested by Israel after their release from a PA jail and are currently in Israeli custody. A small group of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah last Sunday to protest the PA’s decision to proceed with the trial was violently dispersed by Palestinian police. Hundreds hit the streets of Ramallah the following day to express their outrage.