MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
The killing of a 10-year-old girl in the West Bank has disheartened both Palestinian and Israeli peace activists. She was killed last week in the village of Anata during a clash between Israeli border police and Palestinians. People in the town are angry, but the girl's father, a militant turned peace activist, says his daughter's death makes him want to work harder for a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.
LINDA GRADSTEIN: In the picture on the poster declaring her a Palestinian martyr, Abir Aramin's long, black hair is parted in the center. She has pale skin and large dark eyes. Her friends say she wanted to become an engineer and that she loved to crack jokes. Her father, Bassam Aramin, is finding it hard to accept that his daughter is gone.
BASSAM ARAMIN: It is very difficult. And she's my friend - sort of difficult to speak about Abir at this moment. It's very difficult.
GRADSTEIN: It's still not clear what happened last Tuesday when Abir left school with her sister and two friends. Palestinians here say a jeepload of police drove by and began taunting another group of students, several of whom responded by throwing stones at the jeep.
The witnesses say the police then fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. Palestinian witnesses said Abir was killed by a rubber bullet. But results of an Israeli autopsy found she died from blunt trauma to the back of the neck, either from a rock or from a stun grenade.
Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said all of the policemen involved are being questioned. He says a preliminary investigation shows the police acted properly believing their lives were in danger. But he promises a thorough investigation.
MICKEY ROSENFELD: All of these, if any of our police officers - or our border police - that were in the village that day were responsible in any way or whatsoever for causing injuries to anyone who was not involved in the violence that took place, obviously, they would be taken off duty and, obviously, if necessary they will be brought for trial if necessary.
GRADSTEIN: The 18,000 residents of this West Bank village on the outskirts of Jerusalem have little faith that anyone will be punished for Abir's death.
At Abir's school, classmates and teachers held a memorial this week. In the courtyard of the school, they braved freezing winds to listen to nationalist songs and speeches. Fourteen-year-old Danya Rami, who witnessed Abir's killing said she's angry.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DANYA RAMI: (Speaking foreign language)
GRADSTEIN: She was going out of school, Danya said. She's just a child. Look at her books, her bag. What did she do to deserve this?
GRADSTEIN: But Abir's father sounded a different note. Bassam Aramin is one of the founders of Combatants For Peace, a group made up of Israelis and Palestinians who used to be involved in what they call the cycle of violence.
The Israelis served as combat soldiers in the army. The Palestinians were members of militant groups. Bassam Aramin served seven years in an Israeli jail for illegal possession of a weapon and membership in the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Now a father of six in his late 30s, Aramin travels around Israel with an Israeli colleague telling high school students that violence will not end the conflict.
Aramin says Abir's killing has not changed his views. He says no Palestinian or Israeli parent should lose a child to this conflict. And he hopes his daughter's death will be the last.
ARAMIN: I hope so - to be the last victim on both sides.
GRADSTEIN: Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Anata.
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