Celebration tent turned into mourning tent after high school graduate slain in protests

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — The same tent that was set up for Muhammad Sharaf to host friends and family congratulating him on obtaining his high school completion certificate has now been transformed into a mourning tent for his family to receive condolences, his bereaved mother told Ma’an Saturday.

Just a week after he obtained the highly-anticipated and definitive certificate, known in Arabic as the Tawjihi, the 18-year-old joined a mass prayer demonstration on Friday in occupied East Jerusalem against new Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Israeli forces attacked the peaceful demonstration, sparking violent clashes across the city. While walking back home to Silwan after attending prayers in the Old City among thousands of others amid the tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound bombs, Muhammad was shot and killed with live ammunition by an Israeli settler in the Ras al-Amud area of the city, his bereaved mother said, corroborating earlier witness reports.

Two other young Palestinians, one 17, the other 20 — and all three named Muhammad, were shot dead later in the day by Israeli forces amid the unprecedented, large-scale clashes in Jerusalem that spread across the occupied Palestinian territory after multiple solidarity marches were also fiercely suppressed.

“Thank god that Muhammad, within one week, obtained the shahadah and was blessed again with shahadah,” the mother said, evoking a dark pun as the Arabic word “shahadah” means both certificate and martyrdom.

Muhammad had also just celebrated his 18th birthday seven days prior to his killing.

“He used to perform Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa every week. He wanted to pray in God’s house, but restrictions and metal detectors have prevented access to Al-Aqsa, so he prayed in the street. On his way home, he and a group of young men were targeted and shot at by a settler,” Umm Muhammad said.

She said her husband, Muhammad’s father, received a phone call after the prayer alerting him that his son was shot and injured. “He told me don’t worry, don’t be afraid, and he went to check up on Muhammad. Minutes later I was told that Muhammad died a martyr and that his body was taken immediately to a cemetery.”

Muhammad’s body was rushed immediately to the cemetery for burial, as were the bodies of the two other Palestinians slain that day, for fear that Israeli authorities would attempt to seize their remains.

Another relative at the mourning tent noted that Muhammad did not have time to decide what academic path to pursue.

“He obtained shahadah by a divine decision,” they said. Muhammad’s aunt told Ma’an that, “Only yesterday he was talking to us about his future plans, which university he wanted to go to and what major he wanted to study.”