DHEISHEH, West Bank ⁠— Palestinian tradition dictates that only men carry the dead to their graves. Still, a distraught Suhad Khamour gripped the handles of a black platform carrying the body of her youngest son.

For a few moments, he led the funeral procession for 14-year-old Amr, who Palestinians say was killed by an Israeli bullet during a raid on the Dheisheh refugee camp. All around them, mourners filled the street inside the camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, just south of Bethlehem.

“He used to be my right-hand man,” Khamour later told NBC News as she sat surrounded by women offering prayers and condolences in the family’s backyard on Tuesday. The grieving 48-year-old mother of four wore a necklace with Amr’s photo on it.

“I used to trust him for everything,” she said of the boy who loved football and dancing the Dabkea popular Levantine dance.

Around Khamour, banners large and small from a variety of Palestinian organizations and institutions declared Amr a martyr. At least one with the red and white insignia of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, designated as a terrorist group by the United StatesHe called on the Palestinians «not to die except in a hail of bullets.»

Suhad Khamour sits with women offering their condolences in Dheisheh, on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
Suhad Khamour sits with women offering their condolences in Dheisheh, on the outskirts of Bethlehem.nbc news

Amr’s death is the latest in a rising wave of violence hitting the region. Last year, 146 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the highest number since 2004 during a wave of intense violence known as the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, according to the Israeli human rights group. B’Tselem.

Among those killed last year were five women and 34 children. Five Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli civilians, says the B’Tselem report, which is based on independent research including testimonials and evidence collected by field workers, images, media and social media.

In 2022, 29 people were killed by Palestinians in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Twenty-three 23 civilians⁠—including a child⁠—and six members of the Israeli security forces were killed.

The return of Benjamin Netanyahu as head of a government considered to be the most far-right in Israel is fueling fears that the violence will worsen.

So far this year, 18 Palestinians, both civilians and combatants, have been killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Amr is one of four Palestinian children killed this month.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said Amr had been killed during a «violent riot» on January 16, in which various people allegedly threw rocks, explosives and Molotov cocktails. Security forces responded with live ammunition and other tactics, he said, though he did not confirm that an Israeli bullet had killed the teenager.

United Nations Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland has warned of continued violence, which comes amid rising political tensions and a stalled peace process.

“I am especially horrified that children continue to be victims of violence. Children should never be subjected to violence or harm,” she said Wednesday.

Israel accuses the Palestinians and some international organizations, such as the UN, of exaggerating the Palestinian casualties and of not denouncing and discriminating against the Israeli victims. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said Wednesday in New York that «it was also the year with the highest number of terrorist attacks committed against Israelis in a decade,» referring to 2022.

Khamour arrived at the Bethlehem Arab Rehabilitation Society, a local non-governmental organization that provides medical services, where her son had been taken after the Israeli raid. She was worried but still hopeful ⁠— according to the rumor from the refugee camp, Amr she had been shot in the shoulder by her during the confrontation with the soldiers.

But then Khamour saw a «sea of ​​red» and blood pouring from Amr’s nose. He knew that his son was dying.

“I told him that I still needed it. I asked her to come home with me and that we still have a lot of homework to do,” she said. «But she kept bleeding.»

Soon, Amr was dead.

Mourners gather around the body of 14-year-old Palestinian Amr Khamour during his funeral in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on January 16.
Mourners gather around the body of Amr Khamour during his funeral. Mahmoud Illean/AP

Amr’s parents denied that their son had been throwing Molotov cocktails or had been involved in clashes with Israeli soldiers. Despite Dheisheh being nominally under full Palestinian control, Israeli security forces raid and arrest inside the camp, which has a population of about 15,000.

In a statement shared on Twitter, The British consulate in Jerusalem called on the Israeli authorities to carry out a «prompt and transparent investigation» into the shooting of the teenager. The IDF also said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding Amr’s assassination.

Following several attacks on Israelis in the past year and escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli army has been carrying out frequent raids on Palestinian towns and villages.

The violence comes amid tensions over the longstanding campaign by Palestinians for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. While much Most of the world considers the West Bank occupied, Israel considers it disputed territory and has built dozens of settlements that are now home to some 500,000 Jewish settlers. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is also not recognized by most countries.

Amr’s father, Khaled Khamour, already worries about his three remaining children.

“We hear shots every day,” he said. «Here we have no security.»

“I used to be a prisoner and I don’t want my children to suffer like me,” Khaled Khamour added. «Our children have the right to have a normal life.»

Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem, Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv, and Aina Khan reported from London.