Militant group holds symbolic funeral for Tel Aviv shooter in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A militant group in the Gaza Strip on Sunday organized a symbolic funeral for a Palestinian citizen of Israel killed days after carrying out a fatal shooting attack in Tel Aviv.

The Al-Nassar Salah al-Din Brigades, a military wing affiliated to Popular Resistance Committees -- a group of Gaza-based militant groups -- staged the funeral for Nashat Melhem in Gaza City.

Melhem was shot two days before by Israeli forces who launched a seven-day long manhunt after he killed three people and injured seven others in the coastal city.

Gunmen affiliated to the Gaza-based group shouldered an empty coffin and marched from the Saraya crossroads to Unknown Soldier Square, where eulogies were given and participants performed an absentee funeral prayer, before gunshots were fired into the air saluting Palestinian “martyrs.”

“This rally is to honor martyr Nashat Melhem, as there is no difference between martyrs from the West Bank and martyrs from the 1948 territories,” a gunman known as Abu Ahmad told Ma’an, adding that “Palestinian factions are completely ready to confront the enemy in the field.”

A spokesman of the Al-Nassar Salah al-Din Brigades, Abu Mujahid, told Ma’an that the funeral was held “in support of the intifada, its activists and the martyrs who fell.”

Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have repeatedly referred to the wave of unrest that escalated in October 2015 as an intifada that is viewed by the Hamas movement -- the de facto governing power in the strip -- to have begun in occupied East Jerusalem due to contention over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Demonstrations began in the besieged enclave in October in solidarity with individual attacks and popular demonstrations held by Palestinians in Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Over 20 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza demonstrations since Oct. 1, and Hamas has maintained vocal support for the recent unrest but has yet to take concrete actions to participate in attacks against Israeli military or civilians.

Hamas praised Melhem’s attack following his death, referring to the assailant as “a beacon for the [Palestinian] generations who will tread the same path.”

The Palestinian Authority meanwhile has yet to add Melhem's death to the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the recent wave of violence.

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