Tensions in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Shufat in East Jerusalem ignited today as mourners laid Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the 17-year-old kidnap victim to rest. Grief and anger collided, creating a volatile atmosphere that lead to intense clashes with Israeli forces who surrounded the neighborhood.
Photos of heavy clashes, fires, destroyed tramlines and rubble ridden roads have circulated around social media from the neighbourhood since the discovery of Abu Khdeir’s burnt body on Wednesday morning. However all of these previous clashes came to a peak after Abu Khdeir was laid to rest this afternoon.
“We can’t bare this. It’s too much to consider that something like this could happen to Mohammed. The way they found his body wasn’t human,” a cousin of Abu Khdeir told Mondoweiss, pausing for a moment to gather himself before continuing, “He was the quietest, sweetest boy. His heart was pure.”
Abu Khdeir’s body was found early Wednesday morning. Witnesses at the scene of his disappearance have reported previously that the teenager was forced into a car which then fled the scene. Abu Khdeir was seen next lying in a forest after being killed, burned, and then dumped there by his killers.
Abu Khdeir’s family and friends believe his death was a revenge killing carried out by settlers after the bodies of three young settlers, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, were discovered near Hebron on June 30th after they went missing during a kidnapping on June 12th near the illegal Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion. The notion that Abu Khdeir’s death was a revenge killing is well supported, backed up by witness statements and multiple “pricetag” attacks reported over the last few days.
Abu Khdeir’s body was released from Israeli authorities today following a day long wait filled with anger and destruction throughout the village. On Thursday, Abu Khdeir’s family and friends waited all day and night for his body to be returned to Shufat to carry out the funeral, only for it to be held for another day.
According to Muslim tradition, the dead must be buried before sundown on the day of the death.
“We couldn’t even bury him with dignity,” his cousin said. “This is the most difficult, he is a martyr, the most honored of all deaths and he couldn’t be buried with dignity.”
Posters of Abu Khdeir were strung across the street, in tandem with Ramadan light decorations — the same decorations that Mohammed had helped to put up just days earlier with friends.
His family now have an empty spot at their table over the holy month of Ramadan.
Draped in a Palestinian flag, young men of Shufat joined hands and formed a barrier to create a path for Abu Khdeir’s body to pass into the mosque. The crowds were at times up to six people deep on each side along the funeral path.
“He was the nicest person, friendly, quiet and liked by everyone, I can’t believe this happened to him” a friend of Abu Khdeir, who wished to remain anonymous, told Mondoweiss. “I am in shock, Shufat is in shock.”
After leaving the mosque, Abu Khdeir’s body was carried in a casket along Shufat’s main street. The funeral procession was met by IDF soldiers and Israeli police who begun to fire tear gas and rubber-coated-steel bullets at the procession to stop it marching further. Clashes broke out between both sides up until Iftar, around 7:30 pm.
The anger at increasing settler violence and recent IDF aggression during Operation Brother’s Keeper was palpable in the air. An atmosphere that appears to be increasing further within Palestinian East Jerusalem villages, like Shufat, as well as in the occupied West Bank.