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Palestinian fury at Israel boils at youth’s funeral

Relatives and friends of Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, carry his body to the mosque during his funeral in Shuafat, in Israeli annexed East Jerusalem on July 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Chanting “Intifada, Intifada,” thousands of furious Palestinians called for a new uprising against Israel during the funeral Friday of a teen who was kidnapped and believed to have been killed by far-right Jews.

Stones thrown at Israeli police were met with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in one of the most highly charged displays of enmity in Jerusalem in years as the body of Mohammad Abu Khudair, 16, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, was carried through his neighborhood under a sweltering sun.

The Red Crescent said 62 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, one of them by a live bullet.

At another flashpoint, the Gaza Strip border, Palestinian rocket and mortar launches, followed by Israeli artillery shelling, persisted but no one was hurt.

Palestinian officials trying to calm tensions in recent weeks have said they would prevent any new uprising and seek a solution to a crisis that began when three Israeli teens were kidnapped in the occupied West Bank on June 12.

Their bodies were discovered Monday and tension spiked two days later, when Abu Khudair was kidnapped in his Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem and his charred body was found hours later in a forest on the edge of the city.

The funeral was postponed by a day after the youth’s body was held so pathologists could complete a post-mortem.

Many Palestinians, including President Mahmoud Abbas, assert he was the victim of far-right Jews incensed at the discovery this week of the remains of the three Israelis.

With Israel having mobilized ground forces outside Gaza Thursday in a threat to invade, Egypt tried to mediate a truce.

“There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no deal has been reached yet,” a Hamas official told AFP.

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.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abu Khudair’s killing, a day after the three Jewish seminary students were buried, “loathsome” and ordered a swift police investigation. Israeli authorities said they did not yet know whether the Palestinian was indeed the victim of a hate crime.

The slayings ramped up mutual aggravation that has festered since Netanyahu quit U.S.-sponsored peace talks in April over Abbas’ surprise power-share with rival Hamas.

Netanyahu accused Hamas militants of seizing the three Israelis and the military mounted a 2-1/2-week-long search in the West Bank and a sweep against the movement’s activists and institutions. Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them Hamas members, were detained.

Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the West Bank kidnappings. That did not stop some of Abu Khudair’s mourners calling for more seizures to pressure Israel into releasing Palestinians in its jails.

“O [Hamas] Qassam Brigades, avenge, avenge. Do it again and free prisoners,” they crowd chanted, along with cries to rekindle an Intifada, which Palestinians last waged a decade ago.

Tensions were further inflamed by Israeli restrictions on Muslim access to the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque complex during the Ramadan fasting month. Only men 50 or older could enter.

Just 8,000 worshippers attended the prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP. Last year there were 80,000 worshippers there on the same day.

The police presence was already heavy throughout the city this week, to control anti-Arab marches by Israeli ultranationalists and stone-throwing protests by Palestinians.

The Israeli military said it had jailed four soldiers for posting anti-Arab messages on social media. A police spokesman said the force’s cyber-crime unit was also cracking down on racial incitement online, whether by Jewish or Arab citizens.

While vowing to hit Hamas over the three Israeli teenagers’ killings, Netanyahu is reluctant to launch a major operation that could upend already tough relations with Abbas.

More powerful Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip could also draw longer-range Palestinian rocket fire capable of reaching Israel’s heartland and its business capital, Tel Aviv.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 05, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

Chanting "Intifada, Intifada," thousands of furious Palestinians called for a new uprising against Israel during the funeral Friday of a teen who was kidnapped and believed to have been killed by far-right Jews.

At another flashpoint, the Gaza Strip border, Palestinian rocket and mortar launches, followed by Israeli artillery shelling, persisted but no one was hurt.

Palestinian officials trying to calm tensions in recent weeks have said they would prevent any new uprising and seek a solution to a crisis that began when three Israeli teens were kidnapped in the occupied West Bank on June 12 .

Many Palestinians, including President Mahmoud Abbas, assert he was the victim of far-right Jews incensed at the discovery this week of the remains of the three Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abu Khudair's killing, a day after the three Jewish seminary students were buried, "loathsome" and ordered a swift police investigation. Israeli authorities said they did not yet know whether the Palestinian was indeed the victim of a hate crime.

Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them Hamas members, were detained.


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