Riots erupt during funeral in Nil'in

Policemen use stun grenades, tear gas to contain stone-throwing crowd; Hamas flags seen in town.

nilin funeral 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
nilin funeral 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The entrance to the village of Ni'lin was littered Wednesday with hundreds of rocks - some quite large - as well as dozens of bullet casings and tear gas canisters, an indication of the violence that has taken over this tranquil West Bank community. Hours earlier, border policemen encountered a wave of rocks as a mob of several thousand angry Palestinians - waving green Hamas flags and chanting Allah Akhbar - converged on village of 5,000 residents to participate in the funeral of 11-year-old Ahmed Mousa, who was killed on Tuesday during a demonstration against the construction of the security barrier. A preliminary probe has found that border policemen used live ammunition to disperse Tuesday's violent demonstration and that one of the bullets likely killed the boy. For the IDF as well as the villagers - many of whom work in the nearby Israeli towns of Hashmonaim and Modi'in - Mousa's death signifies a definite escalation in the until-now-violent-although-relatively nonlethal demonstrations against the fence nearby. As the convoy of 50 cars arrived from Ramallah waving Palestinian Authority and Hamas flags, soldiers began taking up positions along the side of the road in preparation for violence. The cars sped into the town quickly, with some stopping at the entrance to unload speaker systems playing Arabic mourning music. Several Palestinians walked up to the group of officers and asked them to take a few steps back, to stand on the side of the road and allow the funeral procession to pass quietly. While the security forces did not block the road, their presence nearby infuriated the marchers, leading some to race toward them only to be caught by other Palestinians before they could hit the soldiers and border policemen. Quickly, the violence escalated and, left without a choice, the soldiers unleashed a barrage of stun grenades and tear gas canisters into the crowd, which within seconds disappeared into the village to begin the funeral at the central mosque. Samar Amar, 25, said Mousa's death would not stop the demonstrations against the fence, which he claimed was cutting the village off from more than 50,000 dunams (5,000 hectares) of olive orchards. The village, he said, was predominantly Fatah rather than Hamas, but since the boy's death had become engulfed not just in the terror group's green flags but also in its ideology. In an attempt to gain control over the riots, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni decided Wednesday to station a permanent Border Police force - with an expertise in riot control - to the outskirts of the village where the daily demonstrations are held. The new deployment will not, however, deter the residents from demonstrating against the barrier, which they say will bring them economic ruin. Israel's offer to build a gate through which they would be allowed to pass to work their fields does not appease them. "In the beginning they will let us in, but then when the commander of the area changes the new officer will change the policy," said Amar. While Mousa's death was tragic - the IDF officially expressed its regret on Wednesday - it was used by the PA for political purposes, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas's chief of staff Rafik Husseini was in attendance as a government representative. "Palestinian children are not different than Israeli children," he told The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of the funeral. "Just like when an Israeli child is killed the Israeli people are sad and want revenge, so do the Palestinian people desire revenge for this death." Ultimately, he said, the continued violence will serve as an obstacle for the ongoing peace talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "We are going away from peace and into an impasse," Husseini said.