Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty Images

Israeli police, Palestinians clash during Palestinian teen’s funeral

Family elder says he doesn’t believe authorities will seriously investigate the matter

Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem on Friday at the funeral of an Arab teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who Palestinians said was killed by Israeli extremists.

Thousands of people chanted slogans calling for a renewed uprising against Israel as his body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, arrived by ambulance on Friday afternoon at a mosque in his neighborhood of Shuafat in East Jerusalem.

Abu Khdeir’s body was found Wednesday in a forest outside Jerusalem after he was kidnapped near his home.

Palestinians have accused Israeli extremists of perpetrating the killing, saying it was a revenge attack for three Israeli teens who were recently abducted and killed in the West Bank.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police clashed with hundreds of Palestinians in the nearby neighborhoods of Ras al-Amud and Wadi al-Joz. 

Stones thrown at Israeli police were met by tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in one of the most highly charged displays of enmity in Jerusalem in years.

Despite the tensions, Mohieedin Abu Khdeir — a cousin of the dead teen’s father and an elder in the family — told Al Jazeera that the outpouring of community support at the funeral was “something so beautiful” but that he doubted the boy’s death would be investigated thoroughly.

“From what I see, I don’t think they will investigate [this as] a serious matter. They probably know who they [the perpetrators] are. The Palestinians are not important,” said Mohieedin Abu Khdeir, who lives in Baltimore. 

Mourners pray during funeral services for slain Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

Medics said 15 demonstrators were treated for injuries from the clashes Friday, and the number arrested by Israeli forces was not immediately known. 

Staff of the Red Crescent — the Muslim world’s Red Cross arm — said dozens of mourners were injured, and the clashes continued after the burial.

Police had tightened security in and around Jerusalem, and extra precautions were being taken as the funeral coincided with the first Friday prayer services of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The same day, Israel barred men under the age of 50 from the Aqsa mosque complex, the most important Muslim site in the city.

Mohieedin Abu Khdeir said that tension on the ground was growing and that he was unsure of the ultimate ramifications of the killing. 

“It’s crazy to be here and to see the scene. Things are not quiet, and I don’t know what the end of it is going to be,” he said. 

The day had been calm before Friday prayers, police said, after two days of protests since the boy’s death.

Israeli police told Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s father to collect the body on Friday afternoon after two days of forensic tests and a postmortem examination.

Suha Abu Khdeir, showing a picture of her slain son at their home in East Jerusalem, July 2, 2014.
Ammar Awad / Reuters

His family members were not able to wash the teenager’s burned body before burial, per Islamic custom, nor were they able to bury him on the day of his death.

Israeli police said an investigation was underway and the motive remained unclear. The killing was widely condemned by Israeli leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried on Thursday to calm the situation, expressing outrage over Abu Khdeir’s killing and vowing to find the attackers. “We don’t know yet the motives or the identities of the perpetrators, but we will. We will bring to justice the criminals responsible for this despicable crime, whoever they may be,” he said in a speech celebrating the United States’ Independence Day at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. “Murder, riots, incitement, vigilantism —they have no place in our democracy.”

But Abu Khdeir’s family and other Palestinians, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the young man was the victim of a vendetta and that Netanyahu’s right-wing government bore responsibility. 

And with Israeli authorities saying they did not yet know whether Abu Khdeir was indeed the victim of a hate crime, angry Palestinian protesters clashed with police in Jerusalem’s sweltering summer heat on Wednesday and Thursday.

Increased tensions

Already tense Israeli-Palestinian relations have worsened after the three Israeli teenagers, one of whom had U.S. citizenship, were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a massive search operation that ended with the discovery of their bodies early this week.

Israel blamed Hamas for the abductions. Hamas, which has abducted Israelis before, praised the kidnapping of the teens but did not take responsibility for it. Nor has Israel provided any evidence of the group's complicity in the crime.

Israel launched a massive, and at times deadly, crackdown on the group in the West Bank after the teens' disappearance. Hamas responded with rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, which were met with Israeli airstrikes. Netanyahu on Thursday threatened to use ground forces unless the attacks stopped.

The military says about 140 rockets have been fired at southern Israel in recent weeks. The air force responded with airstrikes on about 70 targets in Gaza, according to the military.

The border area was calmer Friday morning, but attacks from Gaza continued. At least six rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, and two exploded prematurely in Gaza, the military said.

Hamas, whose armed cadres Israel accuses of carrying out some of the rocket strikes this week, said it was in contact with Egyptian mediators trying to prevent further flare-ups.

“Hamas stressed that it was not interested in a confrontation, and the occupation [Israel] was responsible for the escalation against our people, and they have to stop it,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

On Friday, Egypt was mediating a possible cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. “There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no agreement has been reached yet,” a Hamas official told Agence France-Presse, on condition of anonymity.

Philip J. Victor contributed to this report, with Al Jazeera and wire services.

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