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A Palestinian Teen Was Killed in a Protest. Israel Didn’t Let His Family Mourn in Peace

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Aziza, a 15-year-old girl who is dressed in black, is standing in the yard of her home and using adhesive tape to attach photographs of her dead brother to the walls. Her face is expressionless. Mourning posters were hung up here a day earlier, but then Border Police showed up at the house and tore down all the photos and flags in the mourning space. Nor did the family receive the boy’s body – the police took it from the hospital and are refusing to return it.

Wadia Abu Ramouz, a 17-year-old from Jerusalem, was critically wounded last week after being shot in the stomach by police officers. The police said he threw firecrackers and firebombs at them. He died two days later at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, his hands cuffed and his feet manacled. For most of that time his family was not allowed to be with him, not even in his last hours. His body was then seized, and this past Monday the mourning space was taken apart by the police. That’s how the killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem plays out.

A residential compound, houses piled on top of each other on the slope of a hill in, the center of a narrow lane on the boundary between the village of Silwan and the neighborhood of Jabal Mukaber, Al-Kurama Street. These are the favelas of Jerusalem: densely packed slums that were once villages on the outskirts of Palestinian Jerusalem and now are its disadvantaged areas. Disgraceful, they are planted on the hillside, house abutting house, streets the width of cars, with garbage scattered everywhere, like in a refugee camp, all of it under the aegis of the occupation.

Abdel Aziz Abu Ramouz, 46, a father of five who works as a cleaner in the kitchen of the Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, lost his firstborn son at the end of last week. Now he’s sitting with his brothers and his nephews, all of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to him, in the yard, just a short time after the Border Police got rid of all signs of mourning, on Monday.

Burial is forbidden, so is mourning. The video clip of the police action – showing a large force of Border Police, armed, armored and equipped from head to toe, ascending the narrow alley leading to the house, as if executing some particularly daring, hush-hush operation behind enemy lines, their whole purpose being to tear down mourning posters and banners – is an acutely grotesque and ludicrous example of the occupation in Jerusalem. These officers are undoubtedly seriously convinced that they are acting for the country’s security.

For the men of the Abu Ramouz family, all of whom work in West Jerusalem and speak fluent Hebrew, this is not only an hour of grieving but also one of searing rage. The bereavement they are experiencing is compounded by a feeling of humiliation and affront because of the barbaric behavior of the security forces, the pinnacle of which was being deprived of the opportunity to part properly from their son before he died, followed by the confiscation of his body, which is now oppressing them above all else.

Wadia was in 12th grade at the Al-Shamla School for Boys and had begun preparing for his matriculation exams this year. Last Wednesday evening, after returning from school, he went out, at the request of his father and his uncle, to buy cigarettes for them from the supermarket in Ein Luza, in the valley between the neighborhoods. It was about 8:30 P.M. – the family say they didn’t know that on the way he would encounter a large and angry demonstration by young people who were throwing firebombs, firecrackers and stones at the police. Passions were running high, after a 17-year-old had been killed that morning in the Shoafat refugee camp during a home-demolition operation there.

Whether he took part in the stone throwing or not, Wadia was shot in the stomach at close range by an undercover police officer who was posing as an Arab, according to witnesses’ testimony that was passed on to the family. The testimony added that he lay bleeding on the street for 45 minutes, until an Israeli ambulance was permitted to evacuate him. He was taken to Shaare Zedek, where he underwent several operations during the following two days. The bullet had exploded in his abdomen and devastated his internal organs.

At about 10 P.M., his uncle Ramzi heard that a youth from Silwan had been seriously wounded. From the social media they soon learned that it was Wadia. The youth’s phone was still working, but no one answered. Ramzi called his brother Abdel Aziz, Wadi’s father, and together with Hadil, 40, the teenager’s mother, they began making the rounds of the hospitals in Jerusalem. They had no idea where Wadia had been taken; no one had bothered to update them.

At Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem and, on the other side of the city, at Hadassah Mount Scopus, they were informed that no wounded individual with their son’s name had been admitted. They visited Shaare Zedek several times, being told on each occasion that no one by the name of Wadia Abu Ramouz was a patient there. It turned out that, for unclear reasons, Wadia had been admitted under a different name. Not until 4 A.M., after hiring the services of a lawyer, did the parents manage to track down the youth, but visits, no matter how brief, were prohibited. Large numbers of police officers guarded the patient and also the entry to the intensive care unit, where he was hospitalized.

Someone showed them Wadia’s clothes, so they knew for sure. Wadia was in the operating room by now. The officers threw them out of the building, however, like stray dogs, so that in the next two days they were compelled to spend most of their time in the hospital’s parking area. Initially, the parents were joined by close relatives, and later by the extended family as well.

The relatives requested that the parents be allowed to be with their son for a short time, but the police refused. Only after their lawyer filed a court petition was an order issued to let the parents spend a little time by their son’s bedside. Abdel Aziz and Hadil entered the room – and four minutes later were expelled again. They observed that Wadia was unconscious, and was handcuffed and chained to the bed by both his hands and his feet, and that a variety of tubes were entering and exiting his body. They took his picture secretly, the last photo of their son. Two elderly uncles of the youth asked to be allowed into the room as well, but were turned down.

Over the following two days, the parents were allowed in three additional times, for just a few minutes on each occasion. The rest of the family waited in the parking area. During that time, Wadia underwent several operations and received multiple blood transfusions. His condition stabilized, and last Friday afternoon the physicians told the parents that there had been an improvement. At 9 P.M., they entered for what would be the last time. Wadia moved his hand and even kissed his mother. The parents were hopeful.

At about 10 P.M. the members of the extended family were ordered to leave the parking area; the police and the security guards threatened that if they remained there, the parents would not be allowed to see Wadia. The family left, with only the parents remaining, on the eighth floor next to the entrance to the ICU. That same night, after he returned home, Ramzi, the uncle, saw a report in the social media that Wadia had died. He immediately called his brother, who told him Wadia was alive.

No one had informed the parents, who were just outside the ICU, of their son’s death.

Shortly afterward, Abdel Aziz and Hadil were instructed to wait on the sixth floor, because a COVID patient was about to arrive, though the real reason was apparently to take their son’s body into police custody without interference. Other family members, who had rushed back to the hospital, distraught, tell us that they were subjected to blows by the police. “I’m giving you five minutes to get out, or you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before,” one of the officers threatened them, they recall.

“Is that any way to behave?” Ramzi says now. “Instead of consoling us, they threatened us. They jumped on us and pushed us out. Our son died, have some feeling for us. What violence. I’m a cement-mixer driver and I work with Jews all day. Wadia’s father works in a yeshiva for religious people. That’s how they behave with us? We never did anything [to them], the boy never did anything, man. He already took the written part for his driver’s license and wanted to do the test. He sometimes worked as a cleaner for Jews in Mahaneh Yehuda [produce market], and now his friends are afraid to go to school, because maybe the police will kill them too.”

A spokesperson for the Israel Police this week stated in reply to a query from Haaretz: “This is what a distorted picture of reality looks like, amid the presentation of unfounded facts and allegations.

“The assailant was neutralized when he endangered the lives of the Border Police fighters, together with another assailant, while they were shooting firecrackers and throwing Molotov cocktails at them from a few meters.

“In a search that was carried out on their persons, a honeycomb of firecrackers, a knife and a Hamas flag were seized. After they were wounded, the security forces summoned medical personnel immediately and took action to evacuate them to receive medical treatment in a far shorter time than as alleged falsely in the query. Moreover, the fighters assisted the medical teams in the evacuation, and after a few days the assailant was pronounced dead in the hospital. As he was under arrest during his hospitalization, guards were posted at the site and visits were allowed in accordance with the court’s decision. It should be noted that we know of no allegation of violence in the hospital, and if there is such, it should be examined by those so authorized.

“During the past few days, enforcement activity has been carried out in the area of his residence, following the hoisting of Hamas flags and of posters expressing support for terrorism, contrary to the law. We shall continue to act with determination against anyone who endangers or tries to do harm to the lives of civilians or of the security forces.”

The yellow tent on the roof of the building, where the uncle spends the summer nights, was torn down by the Border Police. A few laundry poles were broken. Down in the yard, the police used knives to slash the tarpaulin that was stretched above the mourning space. A lone Palestinian flag flies from an electricity pole. The officers didn’t manage to get to it; maybe they’ll come back with a crane to finish the job. A group of Border Police personnel are standing on the corner of the street, not far from the house, in case a poster is put up or a flag is hoisted. There are family members who have already managed to do that.

Israeli flags fly across the way at dozens of sites where settlers have invaded Silwan in recent years. “No flag will return the boy to us,” says another uncle, Sami. “I have an Israeli flag on my license plate, and it doesn’t bother me. A flag is nothing. Put flags wherever you like, but behave toward us with respect. I’m a shitty Arab and you’re an ugly Israeli, and together we each fill what the other lacks.”

To which Uncle Ramzi adds, “These words you can pass on to the Israeli people, not the Israeli government: We want to live well. We ask everyone who has a heart to give us the body, so we can bury the boy.”

In the meantime, Aziza has finished pasting pictures of her dead brother on the walls of the house. A Border Police force has probably already been dispatched to the crime scene.

Article link: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/twilight-zone/2023-02-04/ty-article-magazine/.highlight/a-palestinian-teen-was-killed-in-a-protest-israel-didnt-let-his-family-mourn-in-peace/00000186-1ace-d840-a78e-7ace63970000?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=Content&utm_campaign=weekend&utm_content=fafabfdf75
Article source: Haaretz | Gideon Levy and Alex Levac | Feb 4, 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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