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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 15:26 GMT
Bereaved activist renews peace call
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Anata, West Bank

A Palestinian peace activist whose 10-year-old daughter was killed during a clash between Israeli police and stone-throwing Palestinians says his daughters death will not stop him from working with Israelis to promote peace.

Bassam Aramin, Palestinian peace activist, outside his home
Aramin, a former militant, founded an Israeli-Palestinian peace group

Bassam Aramin, 38, is a co-founder of Combatants for Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian organisation of former Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers who are now working for reconciliation.

As a teenager during the first Palestinian uprising, Mr Aramin says he believed military force was the only way to achieve full Palestinian rights.

Sentenced to seven years in an Israeli jail, from 1986-1993, for possession of a weapon and membership of the Palestinian political organisation Fatah - illegal at that time - Mr Aramin came to reassess his position.

"I realised that there was no military solution to this conflict," he says. "It just meant that more Palestinian and Israelis would die."

Earlier this month, Mr Aramin's daughter Abir received a serious head injury outside her school in the West Bank town of Anata.

She never regained consciousness and died three days later in a Jerusalem hospital.

Palestinian youths had been throwing stones at Israeli policemen patrolling in jeeps outside the school. The Israeli police fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

I want Abir to be the last victim. I will still be working for peace despite my suffering, but it will be very, very difficult
Bassam Aramin

Abir's friends say she was hit by a rubber bullet fired by the Israeli police.

An Israeli police spokesman, however, says that an autopsy showed that Abir had not been hit by a rubber bullet "but by a sharp object - perhaps a stone".

But this is disputed by the Israeli lawyer representing the Aramin family, Michael Sfard.

He says another pathologist appointed by the family and present at the same autopsy says that Abir's wounds were consistent with the girl being hit by a rubber bullet.

Hebrew Lessons

As the investigation into Abir's death continues, Mr Aramin insists his work is now more than important than ever.

"I want Abir to be the last victim," says the father-of-six, sitting in his flat surrounded by his wife and some of his other children.

"I will still be working for peace despite my suffering, but it will be very, very difficult. But we must protect the lives of children and civilians."

He described his daughter as "clever, with big hopes and big dreams" and a budding peace activist.

Abir had started learning Hebrew. She attended two summer camps that brought together young Israelis and Palestinians.

One young Israeli girl who knew Abir from a camp wrote a letter to the family expressing her sadness over her friend's death.

Forgiveness

Mr Aramin says that he has also been comforted by Israelis involved with Combatants for Peace. The organisation has 300 members, about half Israeli and half Palestinian.

"They stayed with me all the time in the hospital," he says.

"They called every day to see that I was alright. I saw them crying, and they were crying about my daughter."

Mr Aramin insists that he wants the Israeli policeman he says fired the rubber bullet to be brought to justice.

"They look at our children as targets and not as children," he says.

But Mr Aramin also says that he is willing to forgive the Israeli police. Reconciliation he believes is the only way forward.

"For the sake of my children, I want them to know another life. I don't want them to live the same miserable life as I have led."


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