Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Palestinian family mourns their ‘baby’ amid revenge attack claims

A body believed to be that of Mohammed Abu Kdheir's was found in a forest on Wednesday, sparking street battles with Israeli forces and raised fears of a new cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence after the bodies of three Israeli youths were discovered on Monday.
Mohammed Abu Khudair's cousin Ansam, (centre) cries as police fire stunt grenades outside the home in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem nearby the home of Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16.  Heidi Levine for The National
Mohammed Abu Khudair's cousin Ansam, (centre) cries as police fire stunt grenades outside the home in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem nearby the home of Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16. Heidi Levine for The National
SHUAFAT, JERUSALEM // On what should have been the start to another day of Ramadan devotions, Mohammed Abu Kdheir was waiting for morning prayers outside his house yesterday.

A car pulled up and, after asking for directions, two men pulled Mohammed, 17, into the vehicle. A burnt body was later found by Israeli police in a forest near Givat Shaul.

His funeral is expected to take place on Thursday.

Yesterday, his devastated family was left to grieve a young man believed to have been the victim of a revenge attack for the kidnap and killing of three teenage Israelis whose bodies were found on Monday.

His mother Soha sat slumped on a sofa in an upstairs living room at the family home in the middle-class Shuafat suburb of Jerusalem, surrounded by her relatives.

The sounds of street battles with Israeli forces rang outside, with 65 people injured in fighting in front of the Abu Kdheir home by nightfall.

Dozens of masked youths fought soldiers from behind makeshift barricades. The house shook with stun grenades, and tear gas and smoke seeped through the windows.

“He would stand next to the shops before going to the mosque to pray and then come back home,” Soha said. “My nephew told me someone had been kidnapped and I asked where Mohammed was.

“He said I don’t know, so I told him to go to look for him at the mosque. I called my son over and over but there was no reply.”

Saed Abu Kdheir, Mohammed’s father, had spent the day with police and given DNA samples to help identify the body. “Who else could do this? There’s no one else,” he said.

Alaa Abu Kdheir, 25, Mohammed’s cousin, recalled a boy who was in many ways the baby of the family.

“I saw him yesterday at just 1am. He couldn’t hurt a fly, he is so small and so gullible – he believes anything that you tell him,” Alaa said.

The family said CCTV footage from a nearby store showed him being abducted, but police had confiscated it.

A security source told Reuters Mohammed had been killed, and linked it to the deaths of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel, who were kidnapped three weeks ago.

There were several attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem on Tuesday after the funeral for the three teenagers in Modi’in, and rallies across the city at which protesters chanted “Death to Arabs”.

Yesterday, Mohammed’s murder was denounced by the Palestinian leadership, which said it held Israel responsible and demanded the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu act to prevent revenge attacks.

Mr Netanyahu also condemned the “despicable murder” and ordered investigators to work “as quickly as possible” to track down the perpetrators, while urging both sides “not to take the law into their own hands”.

The United States and Britain issued calls for restraint while condemning the apparent revenge attack on Mohammed.

Outside the Abu Kdheir house, another cousin, Samad Abu Khdeir, 20, stood behind the barricades, a cut on her cheek and a bandage covering her right arm.

She said she was one of the first involved in the clashes that began at dawn as news of Mohammed’s abduction broke in the tight-knit community.

A stun grenade blew up in front of her as she stood with other young protesters in the usually bustling street.

Samad is one of very few female members of the shabab, the name given to the protesters who take on Israeli forces at demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

She said many of the male demonstrators had told her to leave the frontlines, but she was defiant.

As she spoke, waves of shabab moved forward, piling wooden boards as a barrier against rubber bullets and using slingshots to pelt the soldiers with stones.

Huge green rubbish bins were pulled on to the road to prevent Israeli vehicles from advancing. A handful of onions used by protesters to ward off the effects of tear gas were placed on a wall.

A short distance away, the Shuafat metro station smouldered after being set on fire earlier in the day. Its windows and ticket machines were smashed.

Signalling towards the mob of young men throwing rocks towards the soldiers, Samad said: “They were unfortunate. They killed a member of one of the biggest families in Shuafat.”

During a lull in the fighting, Obay, 27, stood smoking, with a brown bandana wrapped around his head.

He said he hoped that what had started in Shuafat with protests against the death of a young man would continue, giving new passion to the Palestinian resistance.

“It seems like there is no chance to have any kind of peace. Of course, we still have a lot to lose – but we have to fight,” he said.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Associated Press

Updated: July 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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