Samir Sarhan's funeral in Silwan.
"At 3:30 or 4am I heard some noise outside of my window," Silwan resident Abdallah Rajmi told me as we stood on a narrow street in the middle of a battle between young Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli occupation forces from the Border Police. "I thought it was a simple drunken fight but then I heard a lot of noise coming from the people involved and my neighbors began waking up."
Silwan is a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, near the walled Old City, and is the target of an ongoing Israeli government plan to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes and replace them with Israeli settlements and a Jewish-themed park.
Rajmi recalled the events as tear gas and rocks were being thrown from both sides onto the alley where we were standing. "At this point I went to my roof to see what was happening and I saw three settler guards with 'small weapons' approach a group of young Palestinian men," referring sarcastically to the guards' large Uzi assault riles. "The guards began shooting the men and everyone in Silwan woke up."
At this point, we had to move to the entrance of Rajmi's house because a storm of rocks started to rain down on us and the Border Police began to use rubber-coated steel bullets.
"I could not believe my eyes. I saw a man lying in his own blood and dying. The settler guards had just shot him in cold blood and watched him dying. He was there, on the ground, for one hour until an Israeli ambulance arrived on the scene, of course they would not allow any of us to get near him. The Israelis did, however, bring over forty settler guards and Border Police to the scene before the he was moved."
The dead man was named as Samir Sarhan, aged about 30 according to news reports, and the father of five children.
Rajmi spoke clearly while looking me straight in the eye but once could see the rage simmering over the killing. "This is not a good situation. This is an extremely hard situation and I think that chaos is going to break out here," he said. "If another one dies from his wounds sustained last night, I think that Silwan is going to blow up. You just wait and see what happens during the funeral march." The procession was to end at a cemetery near the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Indeed, Rajmi was correct about the unrest in Silwan boiling over. I had been in the neighborhood since 8am, right when the protests of stone throwing at Israeli Border Police started. Silwan sits in a deep valley and the area has many small winding alleys. Thus pockets of resistance were surfacing all over the place as groups of young Palestinians would sneak up on Israeli forces and rain stones upon them with calls of "leave this place" and "this is not your place, leave now!" Border Police reacted with waves of tear gas which would cover the village including the houses where women and children were hiding from the street fighting. At points, the Israeli forces would use rubber-coated steel bullets from very close range, which has often resulted in permanent or lethal injuries. Tires were set on fire and trash cans overturned. It was hard not to think of images of the second Palestinian intifada as I was trying to get photographs.