Jerusalem police step up presence ahead of slain teen's funeral

Extra officers have been placed at potential flashpoints, such as on roadways and at hitchhiking spots.

July 4, 2014 12:22
4 minute read.
Shuafat riots

Palestinians clash with security forces in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)


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Israel police stepped up their presence in Jerusalem on Friday ahead of the funeral for Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the teenager found dead in the Jerusalem Forest Wednesday morning.
Extra officers have been placed at potential points of conflict, such as on roadways and at hitchhiking spots.

Violent riots that have been known to occur after Muslims' Friday prayers are expected particulary fueled due to the Khdeir's funeral who's murder has been attributed by many in the Arab community to Jews carrying out a revenge attack for the kidnapping and murders of three Israeli teens.

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Access to the Temple Mount was restricted to only Muslims aged 50 and up earlier on Friday due to fears of rioting and violence following the first Friday prayers of the Ramadan holiday.

Thursday was the second day of violent rioting following the murder of an Arab teen. Riots in the capital engulfed much of Shuafat Thursday, the Jerusalem neighborhood where he lived, as police continued to investigate the circumstances behind his kidnapping and homicide.

In the riots, a police officer was injured as more than 200 Shuafat residents threw rocks and firebombs, while others set tires and dumpsters on fire to express outrage over the brutal murder Wednesday of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16.

Believing the homicide was an act of revenge for the June 12 killings of yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, the Shuafat and Beit Hanina neighborhoods became embroiled in violence for much of Wednesday afternoon as well.

According to police, there have been previous attempts to kidnap members of Abu Khdeir’s family, including his younger sister, stemming from a personal dispute.

During Thursday’s riot an unidentified officer was struck in the face by a sharp object and rushed to Hadassah- University Hospital in Ein Kerem, where he was admitted in satisfactory condition.

Although no arrests were reported, officers have cordoned off access to the neighborhood and used non-lethal means to contain the violence, including the use of stun grenades and tear gas.

Due to the rioting, three light rail stations were destroyed, as well as numerous traffic lights, resulting in an indefinite halt to train service into the neighborhoods.

Khdeir’s partially burned corpse was discovered Wednesday morning in the Jerusalem Forest, shortly after residents of the upscale Arab Beit Hanina neighborhood alerted police they had seen a young man being forced into a gray vehicle.

Although Khdeir’s parents hoped to bury their son on Thursday, his body still remained at Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine by evening.

According to the teen’s parents, the boy’s autopsy was initially delayed after the Palestinian pathologist in charge of it was detained at a checkpoint in Hebron, and once again following his arrival at the hospital.

Due to the volatility involving Khdeir’s upcoming burial, police said security will be heightened whenever it does take place. Police denied his parents’ request to commence the funeral procession on the Temple Mount, noting the chronic rioting that takes place there.

According to City Pass, which manages the light rail, ticket machines, tracks, and surrounding traffic lights and electrical wiring were all severely damaged during the rioting. A spokesman said it will take months and hundreds of thousands of shekels to repair the damage.

In lieu of train service to a-Sahel, Shuafat, and Beit Hanina, an official said residents will now have to rely solely on public buses.

Despite the damage caused, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri lauded the ongoing violence in the Arab media as a “turning point in the occupation.”

“Hamas salutes our people in Jerusalem, who are rising up against the occupation to protect the villages and refugee camps from the attacks of settlers,” the terrorist organization’s official said.

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians continued to ask for restraint as the police investigation continues.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called “on all sides not to take the law into their own hands,” remarking that “Israel is a nation of laws and everyone must act according to the law.”

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying Abu Khdeir’s killing was a “reprehensible murder” and requested Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch ensure that the investigation into his death is concluded as quickly as possible.

Numerous gatherings have been held by Jews in the capital urging compassion and tolerance.

On Thursday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said no significant breakthroughs have been made in the intensive investigation, adding that the circumstances behind the murder remain unknown.

“We are still investigating whether it was nationalistically motivated or criminal right now,” he said.

With tens of thousands of Muslims expected for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan at the Temple Mount’s al-Aksa Mosque, Rosenfeld said heightened security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all the capital’s residents.

“Because this is the first Friday of Ramadan, hundreds of police units will be in and around Jerusalem to oversee the procession and prevent any incidents from taking place,” he said.

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