Middle East

Clashes in Jerusalem for Palestinian teen's funeral

David Lee Miller reports from Jerusalem


Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem on Friday as an Arab teenager, who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists, was brought to rest in the neighborhood where he lived.

Thousands of people chanting and waving Palestinian flags greeted the body partially wrapped in a traditional headscarf as it arrived by ambulance at a mosque before burial on Friday afternoon. Mourners carried the body aloft on a stretcher through the thick crowd.

Police had earlier beefed up security in and around Jerusalem. Extra precautions were taken as the funeral coincides with the first Friday prayer services of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police clashed with hundreds of Palestinians in Ras al-Amud and Wadi Joz in the eastern sector of the city. The day had been calm before Friday prayers, police said, following two days of protests since the boy's death. The burned body of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found Wednesday in a forest after he was seized near his home in east Jerusalem.  The teen's funeral is set for later in the day.

News of his death prompted outrage in his east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. Protesters clashed with police for two days, throwing rocks and firebombs while security forces responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

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Abu Khdeir's family set up a large tent outside the home for those seeking to pay condolences and distributed posters mourning his death.

The boy's father, Hussein, said doctors completed an autopsy Thursday evening, and the family was expecting to receive the body after prayers.

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

Israeli police said an investigation was ongoing and the motives remained unclear.

The killing was widely condemned by Israeli leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried Thursday to calm the situation, condemning 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," Netanyahu said in a speech celebrating U.S. Independence Day at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. "Murder, riots, incitement, vigilantism, they have no place in our democracy."

Protests broke out in a few areas after Muslim prayers, police said. Hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at police who responded with stun grenades, police said.

There were also disturbances at the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem when some Palestinians threw rocks there after prayers. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The hilltop compound is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, where the two biblical Jewish Temples stood. It is sacred to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, marking the place where they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

On the main road in Shuafat, streets and light rail tracks remained covered in charred debris, rocks and large garbage cans.

Already tense Israeli-Palestinian relations increased after three Israeli teenagers, one of which had American citizenship, were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a massive manhunt 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.

Israel launched a massive crackdown on the Islamic militant group in the West Bank after the disappearance.

Rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Israel intensified and drew Israeli airstrikes.

The military says Palestinian militants have fired some 140 rockets at southern Israel in recent weeks. The air force responded with airstrikes on about 70 targets in Gaza, the military said.

The border area was calmer Friday morning but attacks from Gaza continued. Palestinian militants fired at least 6 rockets and mortars at Israel, two of which exploded prematurely inside Gaza, the military said.