Israeli police fired tear gas and stun grenades at stone-throwing Palestinians Friday, as thousands mourned a 16-year-old boy believed killed in revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
The clashes erupted after Friday prayers as residents buried Mohammed Abu Khudair. Palestinians say his death was in response for the murder last month of the Jewish teenagers, which in turn has been blamed on the militant group Hamas.
The apparent tit-for-tat killings have stoked anger throughout the region, threatening to unleash a new cycle of violence and recrimination from both sides.
Khudair's body was discovered Wednesday in a Jerusalem forest about an hour after he was forced into a car. Israeli police are investigating whether it was indeed a revenge killing, possibly by Jewish militants.
“I unequivocally condemn the murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. We don't know yet the motives or the identities of the perpetrators, but we will,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We will bring to justice the criminals responsible for this despicable crime whoever they may be. Murder, riots, incitement, vigilantism, they have no place in our democracy.”
The discovery of Khudair’s body prompted days of unrest in East Jerusalem and elsewhere.
His funeral Friday, in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, coincided with the first Friday prayer services of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Thousands jammed the neighborhood, many chanting slogans and waving flags of Hamas, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and also the radical group Islamic Jihad.
Afterward protesters in other Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and outside the walled Old City burned tires, blocked roads and lobbed rocks at Israeli police, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas.
“It’s anger. This is the word I can say. It’s anger. Everyone has that feeling inside. Why? Why Mohammed?” Khudair’s cousin, Ansa, said at the funeral.
The Jewish teenagers’ June 12 abduction and killing sparked widespread outrage in Israeli society. At protests earlier, some Israelis could be heard chanting "Death to the Arabs."
Hamas has denied killing the Israeli teens, though some of its leaders have said such an action would be a justified response to what they view as Israeli injustices.
The Israeli military has massed troops near Gaza and conducted airstrikes aimed at Hamas, which responded with rocket salvos into Israel. Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said Thursday the reinforcement along the Gaza border was defensive.
Netanyahu warned, though, that the troops will "act forcefully" if Gaza militants do not stop launching rockets.
Israeli officials said four projectiles were launched Friday into southern Israel; one was intercepted, while two hit "open areas" near Sderot. No injuries were reported.
Israeli officials told local media that a cease-fire was being negotiated, but warned that any agreement was contingent on whether rocket barrage continues. Israeli officials say the troop reinforcement along the Gaza border is defensive.
Hamas spokeswoman Isra al-Modallal told VOA that Hamas leaders do not want the conflict to intensify.
“I think they don't want it this time; not because they aren't prepared, but because the situation is really difficult and they don't know if they had an aggression or exchanged fire against the Israelis if they would still be able to have a strong resistance here in Gaza, especially now that it's under a blockade, there are no tunnels, not anymore relations with Egypt," al-Modallal said.
Israeli officials said Thursday that four soldiers have been jailed after they posted pictures on social media calling for revenge attacks on Palestinians.
The violence has raised fears that a Palestinian intifada, or uprising, could result.