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Family Of Arab Israeli Killed At Al-Aqsa Dispute Police Claims

Mourners carry the body of Mohammed al-Asibi during his funeral in the southern Israeli Bedouin village of Hura
AFP

The family of an Arab Israeli medical student shot dead by police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound rejected on Sunday claims by the force that he grabbed and fired an officer’s gun.

Medical student Mohammed al-Asibi was killed late Friday, hours after worshippers marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan held prayers at the sacred site.

Israeli police said the 26-year-old “managed to take the gun (from an officer) and fire two bullets” before being shot dead by officers.

The force said Sunday that Asibi’s DNA was found “on the (loading) slide and handle of the pistol”, providing “unambiguous” proof that officers “acted courageously”.

As mourners gathered Sunday in Asibi’s Bedouin village of Hura, in southern Israel, his family said he had travelled to Jerusalem only to pray.

“We reject the police’s story, which is false and slanderous,” said one of his sisters, who requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation.

She described her brother as a “polite and well-mannered person who loved helping others and (had) a peaceful personality”.

Raam, the Israeli parliament’s Islamist party, noted in a Facebook post claims from “witnesses” who said Asibi had gone to the aid of a woman who was in a scuffle with police.

Asibi was reaching the end of his medical studies in Romania and had just renewed his residency visa ahead of his final exam, his family said.

Relatives told AFP that police raided their home after the shooting, interrogated his parents and seized Asibi’s personal belongings.

The head of Hura’s municipal council, Habis al-Atawneh, said his community “all believe that the young man was executed.”

Doubts have been raised over the shooting in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, particularly because police said there was no footage of the shooting at the heavily-surveilled compound.

A police spokesman told AFP on Sunday that the incident happened in a surveillance camera blind spot, while the officer whose weapon was grabbed by Asibi did not have time to turn on his body camera.

Police earlier rejected the notion of a woman being involved, saying Asibi was at the mosque compound alone and therefore “aroused suspicion”.

“He was questioned by the police and asked to leave the Temple Mount compound since it was after closing hours, and then carried out the aforementioned attack,” their statement added, using the Jewish name for the site.

The compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the most sacred site for Jews and the third-holiest place for Muslims.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday gave “full backing to the Israel police for thwarting the terrorist on the Temple Mount.”

Waleed Alhwashla, from Raam, was among Arab lawmakers attending Asibi’s funeral on Sunday.

He said parliamentarians were in touch with foreign diplomats to “internationalise the issue of the Arabs of the Negev (in southern Israel) and the issue of the martyr Mohammed.”

Asibi’s Bedouin community is part of Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up around 20 percent of the population and many of whom identify as Palestinian.

Businesses in the village shut Sunday as residents went on strike to protest Asibi’s killing, an action also observed in other Arab-Israeli communities, according to local media.

Asibi is one of more than a hundred people killed so far this year in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

His death followed a relative lull in the violence since Ramadan began on March 23.

In addition to him, the conflict has claimed the lives of 88 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, since the start of the year.

Separately, fourteen Israelis, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.

Asibi was killed at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound hours after worshippers marking Ramadan held prayers at the site
Asibi was killed at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound hours after worshippers marking Ramadan held prayers at the site
AFP