Palestinian dies of head injury in Jerusalem violence

A 21-year-old Palestinian died on Saturday from a head wound sustained last month after Israeli police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian protesters during violence at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.

Israel’s Hadassah Hospital announced the death early Saturday, saying only that Waleed Shareef died weeks after being hospitalized from serious head injuries. His family confirmed the death.

Shareef was injured on April 22 at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – the scene of repeated confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in recent weeks.

An amateur video from the period shows a large group of Palestinians running from the direction of heavy Israeli fire. Immediately after being shot, Shareef falls on his face and lies motionless on the ground. The Israeli police quickly evacuated him.

At the time, police fired sponge-tipped bullets to disperse crowds of masked Palestinians, who they said threw rocks and firecrackers at police and near the Western Wall — Judaism’s holiest place of worship.

Palestinian witnesses and Shareef’s family say he was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, while Israeli authorities suspect he died from injuries sustained when he fell to the ground. Hadassah officials Saturday declined to provide an exact cause of the head injury.

The family’s lawyer, Firas Jebreeni, said the family refused an Israeli request for an autopsy, but the police refused to let them see the body and took it to Israel’s main forensic institute without permission. He said he appealed to an Israeli court to prevent the autopsy and return the family’s body.

His death came a day after Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent Al Jazeera journalist who was killed in an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, was buried in Jerusalem at a mass funeral crowded by Israeli police and beat mourners and pallbearers.

The Palestinians, including other journalists who were with her, say she was killed by Israeli gunfire. The Israeli military says there was an exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen at the time and it is unclear who fired the fatal bullet.

Shareef was injured during the violence at a contested compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, home of the Biblical temples and Judaism’s holiest site. The competing claims to the site are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the site is a frequent scene of violence.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, home of the Old City and its sensitive religious sites, in the 1967 Middle East War. Israel claims the entire city as its capital and annexed East Jerusalem in a move unrecognized internationally. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state. Palestinian dies of head injury in Jerusalem violence

Bobby Allyn

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