Old conflict finds new energy and claims more young lives in Hebron

Dania Ershaid was 17 years old when she was shot dead. Credit: ITV News

There has been a strange betrothal in Hebron.

The bride and groom were dead.

Dania Ershaid was 17 years old when she was shot and killed by Israeli security forces. The police said she was coming at them, holding a knife and yelling.

But Palestinian witnesses say she had her hands up, and was backing away from the police when she was shot.

Images of her blood-framed body lying in the street soon spread across Palestinian social media.

Raed Jaradat, a 22-year-old engineering student also from Hebron, posted a message under one of the photographs, asking people to imagine if Dania was their daughter. The next day, he stabbed and injured an Israeli soldier, and was also shot dead.

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At his funeral, Raed’s father asked, on his dead son’s behalf, for Dania’s hand in marriage. Dania’s father gave it.

It was a way of recognising what both fathers saw as Raed’s attempt to avenge Dania’s death, and the funeral became a celebration of what Palestinians in Hebron see as the dead couple’s heroism in standing up to Israel’s military occupation of their land.

Hebron is a place where the seeds of confrontation have been long and deeply sewn.

In the Old City – there is a disputed holy place, the Tomb of Abraham, sacred to both Muslims and Jews. And in the middle of the Palestinian population of around 200,000, there is a small community of a few hundred Jewish settlers, under Israeli military protection, with all of the checkpoints and road closures that entails.

Israel has deployed hundreds of extra soldiers to Hebron. Credit: ITV News

The settlers I spoke to told me that Dania and Raed were foot soldiers in the same campaign of Islamic extremist violence, which has brought terror to Europe’s capitals.

“There is a wave of terror coming from the East,” said Hebron settler spokesman Noam Arnon. “And we are on the front line”.

The reasons given for the violence are wildly different of course, depending on which corner of this ancient city you’re in.

Mourners in the street after Uday, Dania’s older brother, was killed. Credit: ITV News

But the cycle has turned again today. Dania’s older brother Uday was shot dead this morning by Israeli forces during a riot.

Hussein led the mourners once again. Two of his children are now being revered as martyrs here, in an old conflict which has found a new energy, and is claiming yet more young lives.