JERUSALEM -- A 21-year-old Palestinian man died Saturday from a head wound sustained last month after Israeli police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators during violence at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.
Israel’s Hadassah hospital announced the death early Saturday, saying only that Waleed Shareef had died weeks after being hospitalized with severe head injuries. His family confirmed the death.
Shareef was injured on April 22 in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound — the site of repeated confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian demonstrators in recent weeks.
Amateur video from the time shows a large group of Palestinians running away from the direction of heavy Israeli fire. Immediately after one shot, Shareef is seen falling on his face and lying motionless on the ground. Israeli police quickly evacuated him.
At the time, police fired sponge-tipped bullets to disperse a crowd of masked Palestinians that it said was throwing stones and fireworks toward police and near the Western Wall — Judaism’s most holy prayer site.
Palestinian witnesses and Shareef’s family say he was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, while Israeli authorities have suggested he died from injuries sustained when he fell on the ground. Hadassah officials on Saturday declined to give a precise cause of the head injury.
The family’s lawyer, Firas Jebreeni, said the family has rejected an Israeli request for an autopsy, but that police refused to let them see the body and removed it without permission to Israel’s main forensics institute. He said he has appealed to an Israeli court to prevent the autopsy and return the body to the family.
His death came a day after Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Al Jazeera journalist who was killed on Wednesday during an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank, was laid to rest in Jerusalem in a mass funeral in which Israeli police pushed and beat mourners and pallbearers.
The Palestinians, including fellow journalists who were with her, say she was killed by Israeli gunfire. The Israeli military says there was an exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen at the time, and its unclear who fired the fatal bullet.
Shareef was injured during violence at a contested compound that is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, home to the biblical Temples and the holiest site in Judaism. The competing claims to the site lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the compound is a frequent scene of violence.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to the Old City and its sensitive religious sites, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel claims all of the city as its capital and annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.