'Came to show solidarity.' Arrigoni
Photo: AP
'Dedicated life to Palestinian culture.' Mer-Khamis
Photo: EPA
'Palestinian martyrs.' Abbas
Photo: AFP
PA awards medal to 'Palestinian martyrs'
Palestinian President says slain activists Juliano Mer-Khamis, Vittorio Arrigoni to receive 'Jerusalem medal' for dedicating life to Palestinian people. 'Murder only served interest of enemies,' says Fatah Central Committee Chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul

The Palestinian Authority will award the "medal of Jerusalem" to Vittorio Arrigoni, the Pro-Palestinian Italian activists killed by Salafi extremist in the Gaza Strip and Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Israeli-Arab theater director murdered in Jenin, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday.


Speaking at a Ramallah ceremony in memory of Arrigoni, Abbas said "the Italian activist came to Palestine to show solidarity with our people, and dedicated his life to our people while living in tough conditions in Gaza.


"He was murdered by a malicious hand that does not represent the tradition and values of the Palestinian people. This man, who came to us full of liveliness, returned to his family dead," he added.


Abbas also condemned the murder of Mer-Khamis, who was shot to death by masked assailants at the beginning of April.


Gaza protest against Arrigoni's murder (Archive photo: EPA)


"He dedicated his life to Palestinian culture and was murdered in cold blood," Abbas said, calling the two "martyrs of the Palestinian people."


The ceremony was attended by senior official in the Palestinian government, representatives of the Italian consulate in Jerusalem and members of Fatah and other Palestinian factions.


'Died for Palestine'

Fatah official Nabil Shaath said that "Vittorio Arrigoni died for Palestine, which makes him a Palestinian."


Shaath added that the medal will be given to one of Arrigoni's family members during their visit to the Palestinian Authority.


Commenting on Arrigoni's kidnapping, Fatah Central Committee Chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul said his murderers served the interest of the Palestinian people's enemies.


Also on Sunday, friends and family of Arrigoni bid their last farewells at a funeral service in his hometown in northern Italy.


Hundreds of people paid tribute to the body of Arrigoni, who was 36, and attended his funeral in the quiet town of Bulciago, some 35 km (21 miles) north of Milan where his mother is mayor.


One of the prelates who presided at the funeral mass was Archbishop Hilarion Capucci of the Greek-Melchite Catholic Church. Capucci was arrested by the Israel in the 1970s for smuggling weapons to the Palestine Liberation Organization in a diplomatic car.


Last week, the Jericho municipality inaugurated a new street that was named after Arrigoni – days after the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip held a similar street naming ceremony.


Reuters contributed to this report



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