PA says man killed in clash with Israeli troops during Nakba Day march in West Bank

Palestinian report says 20-year-old university student shot by soldiers at checkpoint near Ramallah; military yet to comment on incident

Mourners and relatives cry during the funeral of Palestinian Ayser Mohammad Safi, in Ramallah in the West Bank on May 15, 2024. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Mourners and relatives cry during the funeral of Palestinian Ayser Mohammad Safi, in Ramallah in the West Bank on May 15, 2024. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Palestinian officials said Israeli troops killed a man on Wednesday as clashes broke out after a West Bank march commemorating the Palestinian “Nakba,” or catastrophe, of Israel’s creation in 1948.

“A young man was killed by occupation bullets at the northern entrance of the city of Al-Bireh,” an Israeli checkpoint at the outskirts of Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The PA’s official news agency Wafa said the man killed was 20-year-old Ayser Muhammad Safi, a student at Birzeit University, reporting that he was shot in the neck during a confrontation between a group of young men and Israeli forces.

Witnesses on site told AFP they had seen a group of male students from Birzeit University gather a short distance from the Al-Bireh entrance, where they were preparing to begin protesting when Israeli troops moved in.

During the confrontation, Israeli forces fired some kind of gas and sound grenades at the protesters, Wafa reported.

After the confrontation, AFP saw the body of a young man, his head in bloody bandages and his body wrapped in a blue sheet, being carried from a Ramallah hospital to the nearby morgue, as dozens of people crowded around.

Amid chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest), many women in tears screamed out as his body passed by, and one young woman fainted.

Birzeit University released a picture of the young man against the backdrop of a Palestinian flag and a message saying his family, the university administration, staff, and students “mourn with great pride and honor its martyr” Safi, a student in the physical education department.

Thousands march

Wednesday’s clash happened shortly after the annual march in Ramallah commemorating the 76th anniversary of what Palestinians consider the “Nakba,” or catastrophe, when around 760,000 Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes during the War of Independence in 1948, after the UN-proposed division of mandatory Palestine was rejected by Arabs in Palestine and Arab states.

Thousands marched across the West Bank, keffiyeh scarves draped across their shoulders.

The commemoration came against the backdrop of the war raging in Gaza that was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 252. UN agencies say 550,000 people, nearly a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, have been newly displaced in just the last week, as Israeli forces pushed into the southern city of Rafah and reinvaded parts of northern Gaza where Hamas is deeply embedded in the civilian population.

Palestinian protesters hold symbolic keys during a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah marking Nakba Day, on May 15, 2024. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a toll that cannot be independently verified. The UN says some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals at this time. The rest of the total figure is based on murkier Hamas “media reports.” It also includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Two hundred and seventy-three IDF soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border.

Israel has also carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in a bid to thwart terror groups.

Since October 7, troops have arrested some 4,000 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,700 affiliated with Hamas. According to the PA’s health ministry, more than 490 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

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