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As Palestinians bury teenager, tensions mount

Police, protesters clash at funeral; rockets hit Israel

Palestinians carried the body Friday of a 16-year-old youth they said was killed in a revenge attack after the deaths of three Israeli teens.

Mahmoud Illean/Associated Press

Palestinians carried the body Friday of a 16-year-old youth they said was killed in a revenge attack after the deaths of three Israeli teens.

JERUSALEM — Before the body arrived Friday, young Palestinian men, some with faces covered by kaffiyehs, filled the main street, chanting about blood and guns, sacrifice and struggle.

Older men, most with beards long-ago gone white, waited quietly on plastic chairs in the shade of a blue tarpaulin. The women, many with tear-stained cheeks, were in the courtyard outside the home where 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir no longer lives.

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Israeli police clashed with rock-throwing Palestinian protesters during the funeral for the teen, who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists in a revenge attack. More that 50 police and protesters were injured, authorities said.

From the Gaza Strip on Friday, Palestinian militants fired rockets and mortars into Israel, and the Israeli military carried out several airstrikes on what it described as ‘‘Hamas terror targets’’ in Gaza, the Associated Press reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza, but there are fears that the fighting there could explode into a full-scale battle.

In Shuafat, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where Abu Khdeir was snatched and slain before dawn Wednesday, about 2,000 people gathered to give him a martyr’s burial.

Israeli officials said they have not yet determined who killed the teen and why. But the slaying is widely believed to have been a revenge attack by Jews angered by the abduction and killing last month of three Israeli yeshiva students in the occupied West Bank.

“Rest, martyr, we will continue the struggle,” members of the crowd chanted.

At least 13 Israeli officers were injured by rock-throwers at the funeral, with six taken to the hospital, the AP reported. The Red Crescent said about 30 Palestinians were hurt by rubber bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Dozens of others were treated for tear gas inhalation.

Israel, which mobilized troops around Gaza on Thursday, has insisted it did not want an escalation.

Local news organizations reported Friday that Israel had given leaders of Hamas, the militant Islamic movement that dominates in Gaza — and that Israel blames for the deaths of the three teenagers — 48 hours to stop the rockets or risk a major military operation.

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas official, told reporters in Gaza on Friday that contacts were underway to restore the cease-fire that ended eight days of cross-border violence in November 2012.

“Calm would be answered with calm,” Masri said during a demonstration by hundreds of Hamas supporters protesting what they called Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

The recent days have been among the most tense between Israelis and Palestinians in a decade, with hate-filled social media campaigns, street battles with security forces, and rampant rumors all reflecting the intense debate about whether the long-running conflict has sunk to new depths.

Many saw Abu Khdeir’s funeral as a potential flashpoint, particularly because it came on the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a point on the calendar often punctuated here by clashes.

The Israel police also braced for violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City, where men younger than 50 years of age were barred from attending prayers at the Al Aqsa compound, but there were no major incidents.

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said the investigation was continuing Friday into whether Abu Khdeir’s murder — his burned body was left in the Jerusalem Forest — was in fact an act of vengeance or some other type of crime. The victim’s relatives said investigators had pressed them on whether it might have been a family dispute.

But in Shuafat, there was no doubt. A huge banner with a photo of the teen with a shy smile and a sleek haircut called him “the martyr of the dawn.” Talk of conspiracy and coverup was rife in the mourning tent.

“The police know very well that those who killed my son were Jews, and they have their pictures” from security cameras, the boy’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, 48, said Friday morning. “It is clear from their faces that they were Jews.”

On Tuesday, the three dead Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were wrapped in Israeli flags and buried side by side, eulogized by Israel’s prime minister, president, and chief rabbis.

There were no speeches at the Palestinian boy’s funeral Friday, where dignitaries included the grand mufti of Jerusalem; Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Parliament; and Mustafa Barghouti, a leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Tibi, who lives nearby and knows Abu Khdeir’s family, drew a sharp contrast between Israel’s intense three-week search for the kidnappers of the three yeshivas and the authorities’ actions since Wednesday’s attack.

“It’s an ordinary message that the life of Jewish Israelis is much more valuable than the life of others, especially Palestinians,” Tibi said in an interview.

“This is a double standard, both moral and political, and it’s part of the anger in the street here, about what the Israelis are doing to our lives,” he said.

The body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, arrived about 2:30 p.m. and was greeted with calls of Allahu akbar — God is Great — whistling, and firecrackers.

After a family visit inside the mosque and a brief prayer outside, the crowd carried Abu Khdeir in an open-topped green wooden box down the main road, past the Israeli police line at Shuafat’s edge, and finally to the cemetery, where automatic rifle fire into the air marked the burial.

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