The Palestinian Authority on Saturday rejected an IDF offer to jointly
investigate the death of a Palestinian woman who had participated in a rally
against the security barrier in her West Bank village of Bil’in. Security forces
at the scene lobbed tear gas at a crowd in which Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, stood on
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Rahma died on Saturday morning, allegedly due to complications
after inhaling tear gas. Her body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag, held aloft
on a gurney and carried by chanting mourners to the Bil’in cemetery.
held up Palestinian flags and called out, “God is great,” “Oh Martyr, rest in
peace, we will continue the struggle,” and “The gates of Al-Aksa are from iron
[through which] only the martyrs can storm their way in.”
She was buried
next to her brother, Bassem Abu Rahma. He was killed by the IDF in April, 2009,
during an anti-barrier protest in the same spot, after he was hit in the chest
by a high-velocity tear gas canister.
In 2008, her brother Ashraf was
shot and wounded by the IDF while his hands were bound behind his back by
soldiers. The incident was caught on video and highly publicized.
President Mahmoud Abbas called the Rahma family to express his
He said, “This new Israeli crime comes as part of a series
of crimes carried out by the army of the occupation against our helpless
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the killing of Abu Rahma
was a “war crime.”
“We condemn this shocking crime committed by the
Israeli army against participants in a peaceful protest,” said
Palestinian Legislative Council official Mustafa Barghouti called
on the international community to pressure Israel to stop using tear gas as a
means to disperse demonstrations.
Barghouti also called on Palestinians
“to document these incidents and these crimes so we can prosecute Israel in
international court.”Muhammad Khatib, a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee, on Saturday said: “We
are shocked and furious [over] Israel’s brutality, which once again cost the
life of a peaceful demonstrator. Israel’s lethal and inhumane response to our
struggle will not pass. In the dawn of a new decade, it is time for the world to
ask Israel for accountability and to bring about an end to the
Peace Now called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to set up an
external inquiry committee to investigate IDF conduct during the
But the PA rejected an IDF request to receive Abu Rahma’s
medical file so that it could determine the cause of death. It also rejected an
IDF request to establish a joint commission of inquiry with the PA, which it has
done in the past after similar incidents.
“This raises suspicions about
what really happened,” one source said.
Central Command sources said that
after the protest was dispersed, the IDF received a report from the Palestinians
that two activists were treated for inhaling tear gas. The sources said that the
IDF fired the tear gas to disperse a violent protest.
On Friday night,
the IDF learned that the two Palestinians had been released to their homes and
then on Saturday morning they received a report that one of them
But Jonathan Pollak, a spokesman for the Popular Struggle
Coordination Committee, said that Rahma was taken from the protest to a hospital
in Ramallah, where doctors worked to save her life.
She was unconscious
when she arrived and she never regained consciousness, Pollak said. Rahma
suffered from severe asphyxiation caused by the tear gas, he said. She had
poison in her body that was the same active ingredient in the tear gas, he
Palestinian, Israeli and international activists have held weekly
demonstrations against the fence in Bil’in for almost six years, most of which
have been dispersed by IDF tear gas and rubber bullets.
No other West
Bank Palestinian village has rallied so long and so consistently against the
barrier, although others have certainly held protests for protracted
According to Pollak, since 2004, 21 people have been killed by
the IDF, mostly from live ammunition, at anti-barrier protests across the West
Out of those 21, two were also killed from tear gas inhalation, one
from rubber bullets and one from a tear gas projectile.
Pollak said that
Friday’s demonstration was especially large because it was the last one of the
year. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad addressed the protesters at the start of
the rally but then left Bil’in.
After his departure, the IDF shot an
“unusual amount of tear gas” at the demonstration, Pollak said. “They did it to
disperse the demonstration,” which was “completely peaceful,” he
Rahma “was caught in a cloud of tear gas, she stumbled and fell,”
Pollak said.Jerusalem Post staff and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to