Friday, July 4, 2014 3:29 pm
by Majeda EL-BATSH
JERUSALEM – Thousands of Palestinians, some firing weapons into the air, took part Friday in the emotionally-charged east Jerusalem funeral of a Palestinian teenager believed murdered by Israelis.
Chanting “with our blood and our spirit we shall sacrifice for the martyr,” mourners carried the shrouded body of Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, through his neighbourhood of Shuafat as flag-waving crowds thronged the narrow streets, before he was buried in a local cemetery.
Before and after the funeral, Palestinians clashed with Israeli police near the procession and elsewhere in east Jerusalem, and thousands of officers were deployed in case of widespread unrest.
It was the third straight day of violence since Abu Khder was kidnapped and found dead Wednesday in a suspected revenge attack for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month.
“Hundreds (of Palestinians) are throwing stones at police securing the event. Police responding with riot dispersal means,” the police said in a statement, adding that no injuries were reported.
The teenager’s funeral coincided with the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Despite the occasion, just 8,000 worshippers joined the weekly prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
Many apparently stayed away fearing clashes with police. On the same day last year police reported a crowd of 80,000.
Police allowed access only to women, and men over 50.
Military commanders, meanwhile, waited to see if a series of statements by Israeli leaders promising to “meet quiet with quiet” would bring a halt to the latest flare-up of violence on the Gaza border.
– Gaza truce efforts –
Hamas said efforts were under way with Egyptian mediation to reach a truce after a week of militant rocket fire into southern Israel and retaliatory air strikes against Gaza.
“There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no agreement has been reached yet,” a Hamas official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP: “Hamas is not interested in an escalation or war in Gaza, but at the same time it is not possible for it to remain silent on the continued aggression against Gaza and the West Bank.”
The army reported that eight rockets and two mortar rounds were fired at Israel since Friday morning.
Abu Khder’s funeral came a day later than originally planned after his body was held so pathologists could complete a post-mortem.
Many believe he was killed in revenge for the abduction and murder in the occupied West Bank last month of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found on Monday.
Israeli police say the motive for Abu Khder’s killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.
– ‘Troops will act forcefully’ –
Israel warned Hamas on Thursday to put a stop to rocket fire from its Gaza power base and sent army reinforcements to the border.
But it also offered to de-escalate if the Islamist movement would do the same.
“We are prepared for two possibilities in the south. One is that the firing at our communities stops and then our operations will stop too,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a July 4 reception at the US ambassador’s residence.
“The second is that the firing at our communities in the south continues and then the reinforcement forces in the field will act forcefully.”