Middle East

Jerusalem clashes ahead of slain Palestinian teen funeral

Palestinian women walk through the Qalandia security checkpoint on their way to occupied Jerusalem, behind two Israeli border guards officers, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah July 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Palestinians clashed with Israeli police in occupied east Jerusalem Friday, ahead of the emotionally-charged funeral of a Palestinian teenager believed murdered by Israelis.

It was the third straight day of violence since Mohammad Abu Khder, 16, was kidnapped and found dead Wednesday in a suspected revenge attack for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month.

"Dozens of Palestinian youngsters, some masked, threw stones at police in Ras Al-Amud," Israeli police tweeted, referring to a neighborhood of annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

"The police drove them off with riot control means," a term usually referring to tear gas or stun grenades.

Police said that "thousands" of officers were on the streets across east Jerusalem ahead of the teenager's funeral in the Shuafat neighborhood, which coincided with the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Despite the occasion, just 8,000 worshippers joined the 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. Last year, the age limit for men was 40.

Israeli 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.

Media reports spoke of a possible truce in the making after a week of militant rocket fire into southern Israel and retaliatory air strikes against Gaza.

Hamas said that efforts were under way, with Egyptian mediation, but they had so far not been concluded.

"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.

The Israeli army reported that four rockets and two mortar rounds were fired at Israel Friday morning.

Israel's Iron Dome air defense system intercepted one of the rockets, and the other projectiles hit open ground.

The Jerusalem Post quoted "a senior security source" as saying that it would become clear during Friday if Hamas was ready for a ceasefire.

"We'll see what the bottom line is," the source said. "Whether Hamas understands our message within 24 hours."

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim told AFP that "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."

Abu Khder's funeral was to be held in Shuafat Friday afternoon, 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 Monday.

Israeli police say that the motive for Abu Khder's killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.

In Shuafat and other parts of east Jerusalem, Palestinians clashed with police for a second day Thursday, hurling rocks and fireworks at security forces and burning tyres.

A video posted on YouTube by Palestine Today TV showed what appeared to be Israeli border police in riot gear, accompanied by undercover officers, beating and kicking a Palestinian suspect unconscious in Shuafat.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that six people were arrested there Thursday on suspicion of attacking police, but he was unaware of the incident and had not seen the images.

Israel warned Hamas 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," army radio quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as telling a July 4 reception at the U.S. ambassador's residence.

"That the fire at our communities will stop and our activities will also stop, or that the fire at our residents of the south will continue and then the reinforced troops which are in place will act forcefully."





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