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Palestinians clash with Israeli forces at funeral of slain teenager

July 4, 2014 at 6:08 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the Middle East, tensions continued to escalate today.  The family members of a slain Palestinian teenager say their son was murdered in retribution for three young Israelis killed in June. Israeli police say they have not yet determined who killed Mohammad Abu Khdeir or why. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called his death a — quote — “despicable crime” and has vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, adding that there is no place for — quote — “murder, riots, incitement, and vigilantism.”

Those words did little to satisfy the thousands who turned out for the 16-year-old’s funeral, however.

Reporter Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News was at the funeral in East Jerusalem.

LINDSEY HILSUM, ITN: It was a day to chant political slogans, to wave flags, and to remember a boy.

Mohammad Abu Khdeir looked young for his 16 years. He loved dancing and going to the mosque. And for Palestinians, he has become a potent symbol of injustice and fear. His family and neighbors prayed as they waited for the Israeli police to release his body.

Across town, his father Hussein watched as they transferred Mohammad in his shroud from an Israeli to a Palestinian ambulance. Thousands jostled to see the body as it was taken into the mosque, to walk with the martyr on his last journey.

The simple green, wooden coffin was brought out of the mosque. Thousands followed the route. It wasn’t a formal event like the funeral of the three murdered Israeli students buried on Monday. No prime minister here. No official national mourning. Just raw emotion and anger.

They streamed across the scrubland toward the cemetery, behind them the Jewish settlement of Ramot. Family members believe that Mohammad’s killers came from there determined to avenge the deaths of the three Israelis.

As they prepared to lower the coffin into the grave, the sound of firing in the air. Mourners saw Mohammad’s killing not just as an act by individuals, but as more evidence of the perfidy of the Israeli state.

MAN: The Israeli leaders, they don’t want our unity. They found in our unity an enemy. So they want to destroy our enemy — our unity by their — their actions, their continual action of killing people like Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 16 years old, burned alive by the settlers.

LINDSEY HILSUM: A handful of dust and more. Men filled in the grave in the traditional way. The cousin was overcome, not by the politics, but by the misery of losing a boy so young.

KEFAH ABU KHDEIR, Victim’s Cousin: The family needs — they need justice. They need the truth.

LINDSEY HILSUM: After the funeral, young men took out their frustration on the Israeli security forces, rocks against rubber bullets. The family is waiting for the autopsy result. The Israeli authorities say they are investigating, they will get answers. But there’s no trust and little dialogue.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Associated Press reports that 13 Israeli officers and dozens of Palestinians were injured in today’s fighting.

Jeffrey Brown has more on this story.