Crowds flock to Jerusalem funeral for Palestinian teenager

James Reynolds reports from the funeral procession

Thousands of people have attended the funeral of a murdered Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem amid heightened tensions with Israel.

Mohammad Abu Khdair's family believe he was killed in revenge for the murders of three young Israelis in June, but police have yet to establish a motive.

He was buried at a cemetery near the family's home in the Shufat district.

Hundreds of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem before and after the funeral.

The funeral came as Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip continued to trade fire into each other's territory, though with less intensity than in recent days.

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Earlier on Friday, a Hamas source was quoted as saying that the organisation was ready to halt its rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel if the Israeli military ceased its air raids on the Palestinian territory, as part of a ceasefire deal brokered by Egyptian officials.

However, another Hamas official, speaking to the BBC later on Friday, said an agreement had yet to be reached.

An Israeli security official told the BBC: "The ball is in Hamas' court. We informed Hamas that calm will be answered with calm."

Undated family photo of Mohammed Abu Khdair, 2 July 14 Mohammed Abu Khdair, shown in an undated family photo, was seen being forced into a car
Mother of murdered teenager Mohammad Abu Khdair during his funeral ceremony on July 4 2014 in Jerusalem His grieving mother was helped through the crowds at his funeral
A Palestinian throws a stone during clashes with Israeli police after prayers on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz July 4, 2014 Palestinian youths have clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem for three consecutive days

Israeli officials handed the body of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdair over to his family on Friday morning.

It was said to be badly burnt following his abduction and murder, slowing the identification process and preventing the family from burying him on Thursday in line with Islamic tradition.

Shrouded in a Palestinian flag, it was carried by mourners through the streets of East Jerusalem after the first Friday prayer services of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A major Israeli security operation was launched in East Jerusalem, with police firing stun grenades and rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinians in the Ras al-Amud and Wadi Joz areas.

It was the third consecutive day of clashes in East Jerusalem.

An Israeli police spokesman said 13 officers were injured, with six taken to hospital.

The Red Crescent said about 30 Palestinians were hurt by rubber bullets and dozens more were treated for the effects of tear gas.

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At the scene: Kevin Connolly, BBC News, Jerusalem

In both communities in this deeply divided and sharply polarised city there was a widespread expectation that the funeral of Mohammad Abu Khdair would be a flashpoint between Palestinian protestors and the Israeli security forces.

So it proved.

Minutes after Friday prayers ended, the streets of districts like Shufat and Beit Hanina began to fill as worshippers poured out of the mosques.

Young men in masks could be seen striding purposefully towards the front through groups of slower-moving mourners.

Mohammad Abu Khdair's body was carried in open-topped coffin decorated with the Palestinian flag through cheering crowds. In the chants, he was described as a martyr.

The Israeli police held back from the event in Shuafat, effectively setting up a cordon a short distance away to pen the protests into one area of Arab East Jerusalem.

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Tit-for-tat?

Mohammad Abu Khdair was seen being forced into a car in Shufat, East Jerusalem, early on Wednesday and his body was later found in West Jerusalem.

It came after the bodies of the three Israeli seminary students were found near the city of Hebron on Monday, two-and-a-half weeks after they were abducted. Their funerals took place on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed their deaths on Hamas and called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon a reconciliation deal his Fatah movement had struck with the group. Hamas has denied any involvement in the murders.

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Israel-Gaza tensions
  • 2005: Israel pulls settlers and troops out of Gaza, which it had occupied since 1967. Palestinian Authority assumes administrative control. Israel still controls Gaza's airspace and seafront
  • Gaza rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes continue
  • Jan 2006: Hamas wins Palestinian elections, heads unity government; Israel imposes economic sanctions on Palestinian Authority
  • June 2006: Hamas kidnaps Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in cross-border raid (Shalit is released in 2011 in exchange for hundreds of prisoners) - Israel launches first ground invasion of Gaza since its withdrawal
  • Nov 2006: Gaza ceasefire declared
  • Jun 2007: Hamas ousts rival Fatah from Gaza Strip; Israel intensifies restrictions on Gaza, in what becomes known as its blockade
  • Feb-March 2008: Israeli three-day operation in Gaza to stop rocket fire
  • Dec 2008-Jan 2009: Three-week conflict between Gaza militants and Israel
  • Nov 2012: Eight-day Israeli offensive against Gaza to stop rocket fire; ends with ceasefire
  • Sporadic rocket fire and air strikes continue, intensifying in June 2014.

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