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The New Arab Staff

Tributes pour in for Palestinian shot dead by Israeli police while driving to sister's wedding

Ahmed Erekat was due to be married next month [Facebook]

Date of publication: 24 June, 2020

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'The only terrorists are the cowards who shot to kill a beautiful young man and blamed him for it': Palestinians have voiced their outrage over the killing of Ahmed Erekat.
The family of a young Palestinian man shot by Israeli border guards at a checkpoint and left on the road to bleed to death have spoken out about their grief, and their anger at his death and the handling by authorities.

Ahmed Erekat, 27, was driving from his hometown of Abu Dis to Bethlehem to pick up his mother and sister from a salon ahead of her wedding that evening.

Israeli police allege he attempted to ram his car into border guards at the "container" checkpoint, and shot him dead.

A harrowing video filmed by eyewitnesses shows Israeli soldiers stepping over Erekat’s body, which is seen sprawled across the road next to his open car door. Witnesses said he was left for an hour-and-a-half without medical care as he bled to death.

The victim's cousin, the renowned human rights lawyer Noura Erakat tweeted: "Ahmed Erekat, 27, beautiful young man. A son. A brother. Fiancée. My baby cousin. Israeli cowards shot him multiple times, left him to bleed for 1.5 hours and blamed him for his death. Tonight was his sister’s wedding, his was next month. We failed to protect him. I am so sorry."

Ahmed Erekat, 27, beautiful young man. A son. A brother. Fiancée. My baby cousin. Israeli cowards shot him multiple times, left him to bleed for 1.5 hours and blamed him for his death. Tonight was his sister’s wedding, his was next month

In response to the Israeli police statement which accused Ahmed of being a "terrorist", Noura Erekat responded: "You lie. You kill. You lie. This is my baby cousin."

"The only terrorists are the cowards who shot to kill a beautiful young man and blamed him for it," she added.

An Israeli police spokesman said on Wednesday that Erekat "drove his vehicle quickly towards the direction of a female border police officer who was injured lightly".

Palestinian academic Yara Hawari said on Twitter that Erekat had got out of his car at the checkpoint to check his tire when he was shot.

"Palestinians live in a space-time continuum of trauma. Just as we start to move on from one loss, another happens almost immediately. It's a space of constant grieving and hurt. Imagine what that does to our bodies. It's exhausting," she tweeted.

Senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Hanan Ashrawi released a statement condemning Erekat's death and calling on Israel to end its "kill first, justify later" policy.

Israel "attempted to slander Ahmad and excuse his murder,", Ashrawi said in a statement. "It is part of a tragically familiar pattern, where Israel habitually uses false pretexts that are all too familiar now to justify the murder of Palestinians by trigger happy soldiers."

Fellow Palestinians took to Twitter to vent their grief and outrage.

Journalist Henriette Chacar wrote: "I can't imagine what those minutes were like for Ahmed’s family while they were expecting him at the hair salon, only to learn that Israeli soldiers shot him dead. How do you break the news to a bride? How do parents go from celebrating one child to grieving another in seconds?"

Another Twitter user wrote: "Ahmed was my grandma's neighbor in abu dis, Jerusalem..she says he was the kindest & happiest young man..always made everyone around him smile. He will always be remembered for his pure heart. God ease this pain on his family. May his soul rest in peace."

Al-Jazeera correspondent Simri Najwan tweeted that Erekat's mother has insisted that the family continue with the wedding celebrations, not accepting his death, quoting her as saying: "Don't worry, Ahmed will be here shortly."

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch's Israel-Palestine director said Erekat's death was part of a series of "daily gut-wrenching outrages" that "stem from decades-long failure of [the international] community to hold Israel to account for serious abuses".

Erekat's death comes weeks after Israeli border police killed Iyad Hallak, an unarmed Palestinian with autism, at a checkpoint in East Jerusalem.

The 32-year-old was on his way to a special needs school when police chased him down and shot at him.

After the officers followed Hallak into a garbage room in Jerusalem's Old City, they fired several fatal shots at the frightened young man as shrunk on the ground.

The officer who shot Hallak was on Monday released from a brief house arrest. 

Hallak's grieving mother Rana has called on the authorities to release CCTV footage of the shooting.

Observers have cast doubts about the Israeli police claims that the incident was not filmed, as the area of the Old City where Hallak was shot dead is known to be under comprehensive surveillance.

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