BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hundreds gathered in Bethlehem's Azza refugee camp on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of the shooting death of a teenager by Israeli forces last year.
Saleh al-Amarin was a 15-year-old boy from Azza who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier during clashes in nearby Aida refugee camp on Jan. 18, 2013.
He died of his wounds five days later.
His posters hang in perpetuity throughout the crowded refugee camp just off Bethlehem's Manger Street, and his visage and name grace countless walls in the surrounding neighborhoods, a constant reminder of the heavy toll the Israeli occupation has taken on the holy city's youth.
On Saturday afternoon, Palestinian mourners came from across Bethlehem and nearby Aida and Dheisheh camps to join Azza residents on the small camp's narrow main street, where a stage and speaker system were set up for speeches, poetry, songs, and dancing.
After standing for the Palestinian national anthem, the crowd watched as Saleh's father took the stage to deliver a heartfelt speech.
"Saleh is a martyr of Palestine," his father said. "He is the martyr of three refugee camps," he added, referring to Bethlehem's Aida, Dheisheh, and Azza.
As he spoke, youths lit makeshift sky lanterns stenciled with Saleh's name and face, releasing them into the air. The crowd watched as the lanterns emblazoned with his image ascended to the sky, passing through the narrow gaps amid the camp's towers, and Saleh's father held back tears.
But the ceremony soon took a lighter turn. The crowd of women, men, and youth cheered and clapped as a traditional Palestinian dabke dance crew took the stage.
A young woman later took the stage to recite poetry, enrapturing the crowd with verses proclaiming the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their dedication to staying on their land and resisting Israeli colonization.
One young man from the camp performed a rap song he wrote about Saleh.
At the end of the ceremony, young friends of Saleh presented to his father plaques picturing the boy superimposed next to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The friends then distributed baklava as the crowds exited to the tune of Palestinian nationalist songs, while youths lit several more sky lanterns.
A year after Saleh's death, clashes between young Palestinians and Israeli forces remain commonplace in Bethlehem and its environs.
Within the last two weeks, they have become an almost daily occurrence. At least three Palestinians have been injured by Israeli shootings in recent days, one with rubber-coated bullets and the other two with live fire.
Azza camp is the smallest refugee camp in Palestine, its 1,500 residents squeezed into 128 buildings on five acres.
The residents of Azza camp are originally from villages inside Israel from which their families were expelled in 1948. The majority are from Beit Jibreen, only a few miles away.
There are 19 refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, within which live about a quarter of the 771,000 registered refugees in the territory.
More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.