Lebanon mourns protester killed by Israeli fire, Hezbollah declares him ‘martyr’

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Hundreds of people brandishing Palestinian flags and the yellow colors of Hezbollah gathered in south Lebanon on Saturday for the funeral of a Lebanese protester killed by Israeli fire a day earlier.

Mohamad Kassem Tahan, a member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, had been protesting at the Lebanese border against Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip when he was hit by military shellfire.

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That came after a number of young demonstrators had tried to cross into the northern Israeli border town of Metulla, according to Lebanese state media.
On Saturday, Tahan’s hometown of Adloun held a funeral that coincided with the anniversary of the Nakba -- the “catastrophe” of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948.

Hezbollah fighters in military fatigues carried the 21-year-old’s coffin, wrapped in the movement’s yellow flag, through a crowd of mourners to the sound of pro-Palestinian chants and sporadic gunfire.

“Death to Israel!” they chanted. “To Jerusalem we will go, and the martyrs will be in the millions!”

Hezbollah, a key enemy of Israel, had declared Tahan a “martyr” on Friday and Lebanese president Michel Aoun condemned a “crime committed by Israeli forces.”

Speaking to AFP at the funeral, Tahan’s friend Karim called him “a very loving young man.”

“He was loved in Adloun. He used to help everyone, even if he was busy,” the 17-year-old said.

Beside him, a group of Tahan’s friends cried on a sofa, while outside, copies of his portrait lined roads leading to the funeral venue.

The funeral came as dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered along the southern frontier to commemorate the Nakba and denounce Israeli violence in Gaza and Jerusalem.

Brandishing flags and wearing checkered Palestinian scarves, they gathered at several locations including the Lebanese border towns of Maroun al-Ras and Adaisseh, according to AFP correspondents in the area.

They were surrounded by Lebanese soldiers who had erected checkpoints and blocked roads leading up to the frontier to avoid any escalation, according to state media.

Ahead of Saturday’s protest, an Israeli army spokesperson warned Lebanon against allowing “rioters” to approach the frontier.
His statement came as the Israeli army claimed it foiled an overnight attempt by a group of Lebanese infiltrators to cross the border near the town of Metulla.

The army said the infiltrators had planted objects believed to be explosives before fleeing back into Lebanon under Israeli fire.
Earlier on Thursday, three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh toward Israel, a Lebanese military source said.

Israel’s army said the rockets had landed in the sea.

A source close to Hezbollah said the Shia group had no link to that incident.

Israel occupied much of southern Lebanon from its 1982 invasion until its withdrawal in 2000, seen as a victory for Hezbollah’s “resistance.”

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