The 75-year-old activist, who was in coma for 13 days after being run over by Israeli tow truck, defended every house, every car, every street from Israeli occupation.

With long grey beard and a white scarf draped over his head, Suleiman al-Hathalin was an icon of Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank - an unmissable figure standing tall in the face of Israeli brutality. 

It was not surprising that thousands of mourners joined the funeral procession of the 75-year-old activist on January 18 - nearly two weeks after he was run over by an Israeli tow truck at Umm al-Khair village, his home for 57 years. 

His body - draped in the Palestinian flag - was laid to rest in the presence of the large number of people, who had gathered to mourn a man affectionately called 'Hajj Suleiman'. A man who had long articulated steely defiance of Israeli oppression.

On January 5, Suleiman had stood in front of the tow truck sent to Umm al-Khair to seize unregistered and allegedly stolen vehicles.

"When the tow truck ran him over, Suleiman suffered fractures in the skull, neck and rib cages, as well as wounds to his colon. He was in a terrible state," Aziz al-Hathalin, Suleiman's nephew, tells TRT World

Suleiman spent 13 days in a coma.

The resistance

Suleiman's family was displaced from the Arad area in the Negev desert in 1948 during the Nakba. 

They settled in Umm al-Khair village in the Palestinian city of Hebron in the southern West Bank in 1965.

Despite owning land in the village, Suleiman's family witnessed Israeli forces demolish their house and build an illegal Jewish settlement called 'Carmel' in 1980. 

Many families, including Suleiman's, were denied the right to rebuild houses in the area, so they lived in tents, which were also knocked down several times over the years.

This was when Suleiman's journey of fierce advocacy for his community began. 

"Residents were always exposed to repeated demolitions and attacks by Israeli forces. So they used to cut power and water supplies to push them to leave," Aziz tells TRT World

"But the Israeli suppression made us fight more for our land under Suleiman's leadership."

Despite his advanced age, Suleiman did not stop participating in protests across the occupied West Bank. 

Whenever Israeli forces were on their way to demolish Palestinian homes, Suleiman would be seen facing off with them.

"Suleiman dedicated his life for Palestine and its people. He defended every house, every car, every street and every family," says Issa Amro, founder of the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) group in Hebron. 

"He moved from one area to another to confront the Israeli occupation without fail."

'Father of all Palestinians'

Suleiman's son Eid recalls joining his father in protests against the occupation. He says his father would not sit to rest or drink water.

"He would continue protesting no matter what. His only aim was to resist the occupation and strengthen the Palestinian people's steadfastness. He never looked for anything else," he tells TRT World.

"He used to say: I will continue to serve the Palestinian people."

Amro says his death left many with a renewed drive to resist the occupation and fight for justice. 

The Israeli police released a statement, saying that Palestinians were throwing rocks at the truck and that Suleiman had climbed on the vehicle and fallen. 

Rejecting the claim, Suleiman's son Eid says: "They ran him over intentionally. There are witnesses to it."

The Israeli police are yet to question the driver, who ran over and killed Suleiman.

"They killed Suleiman not knowing that there are 1000 more Suleimans waiting for them," Aziz adds. 

"We promise to continue Suleiman's journey, and we promise that Umm al-Khair will not kneel."

With reporting by Siham Shamalakh in Gaza

Source: TRT World