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Thousands mourn at Tel Aviv funeral for slain Border Police officer

Barel Hadaria Shmueli’s mother eulogizes him as ‘a king,’ but angrily accuses IDF, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of negligence, with many in crowd booing PM

A coffin carrying the body of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli at a funeral in Tel Aviv on August 30, 2021. Shmueli died nine days after being shot in the head during riots on the Gaza border. (Police spokesperson)
A coffin carrying the body of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli at a funeral in Tel Aviv on August 30, 2021. Shmueli died nine days after being shot in the head during riots on the Gaza border. (Police spokesperson)

Thousands of mourners turned out on Monday night for the funeral of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, a Border Police officer who died earlier that day of wounds sustained during violence along the border with Gaza more than a week ago.

Shmueli, 21, was laid to rest at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv.

“I promise, I will follow my son, Barel, I will follow in his wake, I can’t continue my life,” cried out his mother, Nitza Shmueli, at the funeral. “Everyone here must take responsibility for his little sister, whose king is no longer alive.”

Nitza also leveled sharp and angry criticism at Israeli authorities, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“They said they didn’t know that the terrorist was hiding a gun in his underwear. I am calling out to the entire world, the government of Israel, the IDF, the Israel Police, the Border Police — I want someone to tell me — when does a terrorist come with baklava, with sweets? Tell me when, when?!” she screamed.

“After a day they closed the hole,” Nitza said of the gap in the concrete wall along the border with Gaza that the gunman fired through, hitting Shmueli and mortally wounding him during a violent riot nine days ago.

The mother of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli speaks at his funeral in Tel Aviv on August 30, 2021. Shmueli died nine days after being shot in the head during riots on the Gaza border. (Police spokesperson)

Shmueli was wounded last Saturday night as Gaza rioters at a Hamas-run rally surged toward the security fence. In videos from the scene, rioters could be seen attempting to destroy and then snatch a soldier’s gun as it poked through a hole in the concrete wall. One man could then be seen running up to the wall, taking out a gun that had been tucked in his waistband and firing three shots through the hole at point-blank range. One of the rounds struck Shmueli in the head.

At his funeral on Monday night, Nitza reiterated her criticism of the prime minister, calling him “a waste for the State of Israel,” as the crowd booed at the mention of his name. And once again she lambasted him for mixing up the name of Barel with that of his father, Yossi, when he called the family last week. “It was thanks to this warrior that [Bennett] was able to vacation several days earlier in the North!”

Likud MK Eli Cohen attended the funeral, as did Religious Zionism MKs Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

Shmueli died on Monday afternoon nine days after he was wounded. His plight had attracted nationwide attention and mass vigils outside the hospital took place nearly nightly.

Border Police officer Barel Shmueli who was critically wounded in a shooting on the Gaza border, on August 21, 2021. He died of his injuries on August 30. (Border Police)

“The medical team fought for his life and he underwent multiple surgeries during his hospitalization,” the Soroka Medical Center said in a statement on Monday. “Despite the intense efforts, due to his serious injury the medical staff was forced to determine his death. We share in the heavy grief of his family.”

The announcement of Shmueli’s death drew an outpouring of condolences from leaders, politicians and others.

“There are no words to comfort his family amid their deep grief,” said Bennett. “Barel was a fighter in his life and a fighter in his death. He fought for his life until the last moment, as all of the people of Israel were praying for him.”

Initial findings from the military’s investigation into the violence along the Gaza border on Saturday indicated that the troops were unprepared for the sudden rush of rioters toward the security fence. The soldiers stationed on the border did not immediately open fire at the masses that suddenly attacked the fence, out of concern that they might hit civilians who were in the area, a military official said.

Rioters ran up to the border so quickly that Shmueli and the other soldiers with him apparently did not know how close they were until they reached the concrete wall being used for cover, despite the ample reconnaissance equipment on the border, including drones and powerful surveillance cameras, an official said.

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