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Weekend of stones, flames and blood in East Jerusalem

Palestinian-American teen shot dead by IDF; scores of protesters wounded, 18 arrested; funeral of Jewish baby's murderer postponed;some school trips cancelled to the capital.

By Nir Hasson, Ilan Lior, Yarden Skop, Gili Cohen ad Jack Khoury     26 October 2014      Haaretz

A masked Palestinian protester in East Jerusalem, Oct. 24, 2014.

A masked Palestinian protester stands near burning tyres during clashes with Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya, Oct. 24, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Clashes continued in East Jerusalem over the weekend as a Palestinian teen with dual U.S. citizenship was killed in a confrontation with Israeli troops. Eighteen Palestinians were arrested over the weekend.

Disturbances occurred in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods, with Palestinians throwing stones and firecrackers at police. Against this background, the Tel Aviv municipality has canceled some school trips to the capital.

The 14-year-old was shot dead by Israeli soldiers Friday afternoon during clashes at a weekly protest. According to the Israel Defense Forces, the boy was about to hurl a firebomb onto Route 60; an IDF unit nearby opened fire after the teen lit the firebomb’s fuse and got ready to throw. Palestinian officials deny this version of events.

A relative identified the teen as Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad and said he was born in New Orleans and came to the West Bank at age 6. Hammad’s cousin Moath said he was among a group of Palestinians who were throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.
An army spokesman told Reuters that Israeli forces “managed to prevent an attack when they encountered a Palestinian man hurling a Molotov cocktail at them on the main road next to Silwad. They opened fire and they confirmed a hit.”

The IDF said it would investigate the shooting, which occurred amid other clashes in Arab areas in and around Jerusalem in which several people were lightly injured.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called for a “speedy and transparent investigation.”

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv municipality has canceled some school trips to Jerusalem because of the security situation, Channel 10 reported last night. The city also canceled bar and bat mitzvah trips by eighth-graders to Jerusalem during which participants were to visit the Western Wall and Ammunition Hill, near the site of the terror attack on the light-rail system Wednesday.

“There is no overall directive to cancel trips to Jerusalem,” the municipality said. “On the contrary, next week the annual field trip to Jerusalem by one school will take place.”

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem District Court has granted the police’s request to postpone the funeral of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, the man who drove his car into a light-rail stop, killing a 3-month-old and injuring several people. The funeral has been postponed until Sunday at an undisclosed location. 

A Border Police contingent yesterday broke up a group of young men in Silwan who were throwing stones and firecrackers at a vehicle the city had sent in to remove scrap metal, stones and garbage to open a blocked road. There were no injuries.

In the A-Tur neighborhood near Mount Scopus, a few dozen masked men blocked the road and set garbage bins on fire near the Beit Orot Yeshiva. They also threw stones and incendiary devices. One man was lightly injured and did not require medical attention. Police and Border Police used anti-riot measures.

Stones were also thrown at the light rail near Beit Hanina and Shoafat. There were no injuries or arrests.

Stores called a general strike for East Jerusalem yesterday; such strikes have only been partially adhered to in the past, though they did contribute to violence.
According to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Friday’s incidents were the most serious since the current round of violence began three months ago. There were violent demonstrations in most East Jerusalem neighborhoods, particularly in Silwan, Isawiyah and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, where a Border Police force was attacked with stones and firecrackers.

Four people were arrested in that incident on suspicion of throwing stones. One of those arrested was Ahmed Sub Laben, a researcher for the left-wing Jerusalem NGO Ir Amim, who was documenting the incident.

He and two men arrested with him were reportedly beaten by police and held for seven hours before being released. The Jerusalem police said in a statement the three were released after security cameras showed that they were not the stone-throwers.

In Wadi Joz, Palestinian youths threw stones and firecrackers at police, and in Abu Tor a bottle of paint was thrown at police.

Al-Shaludi’s house in Silwan was a major focus of Friday’s violence, when a few hundred youths tried to attack a police contingent. The police fired tear gas and stun grenades.

Despite the violence, the police said Jewish residents of Silwan walked without incident among the houses into which they had recently moved.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel said he and his wife were considering moving into Silwan to support the Jewish residents there.

Also Friday, the police launched three observation balloons to film disturbances in the neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, near the settlement of Kidmat Tzion, and in Shoafat. Forces in Jerusalem have been augmented by hundreds of Border Police and special forces.

Residents of Silwad said Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad was the cousin of Ta’er Hammad, who carried out a sniper attack that killed 10 Israelis in Wadi al-Haramiya, near the settlement of Shiloh in 2002. The teen’s uncle, Nabil Hammad, is said to have been killed in the first intifada.

Hammad is the second teen to be killed by army fire in eight days. A 12-year-old was killed last week in a West Bank village.  Another 12 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes on Friday, a hospital official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

The Israeli military said soldiers “prevented an attack” by opening fire on a Palestinian who was throwing fire-bombs at traffic on a highway Friday evening.

Tensions have been high since June, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by Palestinian militants in the West Bank. Jewish extremists retaliated by kidnapping and killing a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem, sparking riots. The kidnappings set off a series of events that led to the 50-day Gaza war.

The last few months have also seen clashes at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site between Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli police, adding to the tensions.

With reporting by AP and Reuters