In the battle of narratives between Israel and Palestine, the short life of Abdel Fattah Abd al-Nabi is the current front line. The 18-year-old was one of 16 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops on Friday as they confronted mass demonstrations at the Gaza border. Video footage appears to show Mr Nabi was unarmed and shot in the back of the head by a sniper as he ran away from Israeli positions.
Images of his death have been shared around the world and both Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, have raced to give their own spin on the shaky mobile phone footage of his final moments. The fight to define one life, and one death, has become a proxy for the broader conflict.
The Israeli military has accused Mr Nabi of being “an active operative of the Hamas terror organization’s military wing”, the armed faction known as the Qassam Brigades. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said that 10 of Friday’s 16 dead had known links to terrorism and were involved in violence when they were killed.
An IDF spokesman declined to say what evidence the army had to link Mr Nabi to the Qassam Brigades.
But in the mourning tent in Gaza City, where neighbours and friends came to sit and drink coffee as they offered condolences, Mr Nabi’s family told a different story.
Palestinian men march on March 31, 2018 in the Israeli occupied West Bank city of Nablus in a symbolic funeral in solidarity with those who were killed a day earlier in the Gaza Strip during clashes with Israeli forces on Land Day.
“He was a child just like any other,” said Bahjat al-Nabi, his father. “He was full of life, he wanted to fulfil his life.” He strongly denied that his son was involved in armed resistance to Israel.
“He was a kid. He was not involved in any military activity with the Qassam Brigades or anyone else,” the elder Mr Nabi said. “This is the Israeli plan of making it look like the dead had rifles but actually they are murderers and the dead are victims.”
Zaid Abu Oker, 19, was a friend of Mr Nabi and was with him at his death. He said the pair had gone to the protests to be part of the excitement of the day. Not far from the clashes, many Palestinian families had in fact brought picnics to Friday’s demonstration.
Mr Abu Oker said he and his friend moved to the border to help a man who was retrieving a tyre. Palestinian demonstrators often set tyres aflame to roll towards Israeli soldiers but Mr Abu Oker said neither he nor Mr Nabi had been involved in violence.
They were racing back towards the crowds when Mr Nabi was shot in the back of the head. “He died straight away. He didn’t have time to say ‘There is no God but Allah,’” said Mr Abu Oker.
The large mourning tent was decorated with posters from the different Palestinian factions paying tribute to the shaheed, or martyr. …read more