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Palestinian bus driver’s hanging death ignites East Jerusalem protests

Israeli forensics team says bus driver’s death in East Jerusalem was suicide; colleagues, family say they suspect murder

Scores of Palestinian protesters burned tires in East Jerusalem overnight after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle on Sunday.

An Israeli forensics team said Monday that Yusuf Hasan al-Ramuni’s death was a suicide and that there was no evidence of foul play, but Palestinian authorities and Ramuni's colleagues and relatives said they suspected murder.

A supervisor had found Ramuni’s body at a bus depot on Sunday in the East Jerusalem industrial zone of Har Hotzvim, police said in a statement.

Ramuni, 32, was identified by family members who said he was from Al-Tur on the Mount of Olives in occupied East Jerusalem.

His relatives ruled out that the father of two could have committed suicide.

"My brother had children and was a happy man. It is impossible that he killed himself," said Osama al-Ramuni, the victim's brother.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since June, when Palestinians kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Israelis retaliated by abducting and burning alive a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem. The kidnappings set off a series of events that led to the 50-day Gaza war, which left more than 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelis dead

Revenge attacks from both sides have been happening since summer, and analysts say the controversy over the hanged bus driver could ignite fresh clashes after a period of relative quiet.

"According to an initial investigation, it appears there is no suspicion of criminal activity, in other words a suicide," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement, which said that there were "no signs of violence on the body."

But fellow bus driver Muatasem Fakeh said he had seen evidence to the contrary. 

"We saw signs of violence on his body," he told the Agence France-Presse news agency. 

"He was hanged over the steps at the back of the bus in a place where it would be impossible to hang yourself alone," he said.

Osama al-Ramuni said the family did not accept the verdict of suicide. He said his brother’s body "had bruises on it," suggesting he had been "tortured" before his death.

"He had no problems that would make him do it," he said, adding that a post-mortem would "reveal everything."

"We reject the suicide theory. We all know it was settlers who killed him," he said.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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