Saturday, March 24, 2018

Second Friday of rage leads to another Saturday of mourning

By Rhiannon F. - December 19, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Jerusalem] [Beit il]

It's slow driving into Beit Ula, west of Hebron. The road is filled with cars, trailing behind a transport ambulance. They continue to round the narrow street corners, before coming to a roadblock. The men of village have filled the street outside the family home of Amin Mahmoud Aqell. The women of the village are gathered around Amin’s mother, Aida Mahmmoud Aqell as she views her son for the last time.

The moment seems brief, as the men lift up the Red Crescent stretcher Amin lays on, wrapped in the Palestinian and Fatah flag with his head framed by a white Keffiyeh. They march back through the narrow streets, past cars displaying posters commemorating 19-year-old Amin Mahmoud Aqell, towards the village mosque for Friday prayer, chanting Al Quds is Palestinian. It’s a political funeral. Amin is a political martyr.

As the second Friday of Rage (Dec 15) after Trump’s Jerusalem announcement came and passed, so too did another four Palestinian lives, two in Gaza and two near Ramallah in the West Bank. The media attention and outrage across the world regarding the death of wheelchair- bound Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh in Gaza who was shot by a sniper in the head seems to have clouded the scenario surrounding Amin’s death.

The neighbour of Amin’s family, Nora Al Adm explained Amin had been protesting at Beit El checkpoint, north of Ramallah everyday, “the same as other boys.” “This happened when Trump announced Jerusalem was Israel’s. It’s crazy. It’s a shock for his mother and sister. Trump is a bad person, he’s not thinking,” Adm said sadly. Amin’s mother, Aida Mahmmoud Aqell said she told him not to go out [and protest] because the situation is so bad. “He replied, 'don’t worry, the thing that God writes, will happen.’ My heart felt something when he said that and he left,” Aida remembered. “He was killed because of Al Aqsa and Al Quds,” Aida said.

Amin had been standing by a group of press photographers for some time before running towards an IDF soldier and stabbing him with a small knife. A local photographer told Palestine Monitor Amin had not spoken to the journalists the whole time he stood with them.

Videos circulating online show IDF soldiers shooting Amin several times, even after he was already wounded. Once Amin was on the ground, his jacket flew open, revealing what looked like an explosive belt, shocking the soldiers and forcing them to retreat back. As Red Crescent workers tried to get close to Amin to transfer him to an ambulance, the soldiers continued to shoot around him, blocking their way. Once he was finally in the ambulance, the IDF prevented them from leaving, forcing paramedics to transfer him to a civilian car to get him to the hospital.

Israel Police National Spokesman to the foreign media, Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld told Palestine Monitor there was an ongoing investigation, but at this point, “it is a fake explosive device.” “The Red Crescent whipped him away very quickly, so we couldn’t see the device,” Superintendent Rosenfeld said. Their investigation is based on photos circulating from AP and Reuters. “From what we understand from the photos and materials and footage, there was a fake explosive device wrapped around him, but wires could be seen making it highly suspicious that it was an explosive device, so the investigations will continue,” Superintendent Rosenfeld stated.

Aida and Amin’s sister, Mais Mahmmoud Aqell, said they didn’t know anything about the belt he was wearing or the knife. “He’s a silent person, he doesn’t speak about anything, he’s secret,” Aida said. Adm also said the belt wasn’t real. “It’s fake. He got an idea like the others, to go to Beit El to free Palestine, he would do anything,” Adm said, when questioned as to why he would wear a fake belt.

Amin’s father died eight months ago from an illness. “Since his father died, his heart turned off,” Aida expressed. Amin, in his first year of a law degree at the time of death, wanted to study design in Germany. “His father was planning to send him there but he died. Amin felt frustration after his father’s death,” Aida continued. “When he died, the hope disappeared,” Amin’s sister, Mais confirmed.

It’s a consuming story, with questions that may never be answered. Why would someone wear a fake explosive belt in the middle of a clash where live ammunition was being used? Had Amin drawn attention to himself by stabbing a soldier, knowing he would be shot, because of the hope he had lost after losing his father? Some of the photographers at the scene were convinced the explosive belt was real though. With one journalist mentioning Amin continued to push on the belt once he was on the ground, as if trying to set something off.

Amin’s mother, Aida, continued to say she was proud of him. It seems difficult to get a non-political statement from family members around the time of a martyr’s funeral. “I don’t feel anything, I can only pray in the mosque,” Aida said, when asked how she felt. Walking outside the family home, Amin’s sister, Mais, rips a poster of him off one of the cars and stares at it while she walks, seemingly angry. “I feel very sad, but half sad and half proud, because he was fighting for Palestine,” Mais expressed.

With many news wires and local TV stations in attendance at the funeral, it is interesting to think how this sort of coverage can affect the true emotional narrative told by the family. They surely do find comfort that their children and brothers are home with Allah, but their state of being proud almost has to overcome the healthy feeling of grief.


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