Palestinian killed in clashes on anniversary of Arafat's death

Hebron (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces Monday during demonstrations marking the 15th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat in the occupied West Bank, leaving a Palestinian shot dead, medics and Palestinian officials said.

Demonstrations were held in Ramallah and the Hebron area in the West Bank to commemorate the legacy of Arafat, revered as a hero by Palestinians.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who succeeded Arafat, laid a wreath at his tomb at a ceremony in Ramallah, where hundreds gathered with pictures and flags for the anniversary.

"Israel says the martyrs are criminals, terrorists and murderers," Abbas said.

"We will never agree to give up on our martyrs, our most sacred martyrs."

Sporadic clashes erupted with Israeli forces, including in the Hebron area, where a Palestinian man was shot dead, the Palestinian health ministry and medics said.

Palestinian medical sources identified the man as 22-year-old Omar al-Badawi, who was hit in the chest with live fire before being taken to Ahali hospital in Hebron, where he was pronounced dead.

- Live fire -

The Israeli army did not immediately comment on the incident at Al Arroub refugee camp or on the other clashes in the West Bank.

Medics also reported Israeli use of live fire in clashes at Fawwar, south of Hebron, one of the most tense cities in the West Bank.

Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers in Hebron itself and troops responded with tear gas, an AFP journalist reported.

Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erekat called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the shooting of al-Badawi.

Arafat died on November 11, 2004 at a hospital near Paris from unknown causes at the age of 75.

Palestinians have long accused Israel of poisoning him, charges the Israeli government firmly denies.

His body was exhumed in 2012 for tests but a subsequent French investigation found no proof of poisoning.

Hamas, the Islamist leaders of the Gaza Strip, prohibited a Fatah event to mark the death of Arafat in the coastal Palestinian enclave.

Hamas and Fatah, which Arafat led, have been deeply divided since a 2007 near civil war in the Gaza Strip.

- 'Very foundation' -

No Palestinian elections apart from local polls have been held since 2006 because of the split, but both sides have spoken of a renewed push to do so.

Abbas, 84, spoke again of holding elections on Monday, saying legislative polls should be held first, followed by a presidential vote.

He has insisted on holding the elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in Jerusalem.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.

It later annexed east Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians view the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Israel prevents any Palestinian Authority activity in east Jerusalem.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya on Sunday also spoke of elections, saying they were "at the very foundation of the Palestinian national project."

In 2005, Abbas comfortably won presidential elections held in both the West Bank and Gaza.

But a year later, Hamas shocked the world by beating Abbas's Fatah movement in parliamentary polls.

Unlike Fatah, the Islamists reject all negotiations with Israel and support violent means.

In a 2007 near civil war Hamas overthrew Abbas's forces in Gaza.