Jerusalem – For two days the house of Mohammed Abu Khdair has been filled with mourners, offering condolences to his stunned parents with a staccato soundtrack of stun grenades exploding outside.
Mohammed left the house on Wednesday morning to walk a few meters up the road to a local mosque. He never made it there: Witnesses said he was abducted, dragged into a car by two or three men and driven away. His body was found hours later, dumped in a forest outside of Jerusalem, burned beyond recognition.
His father spent much of the day in a police station, where investigators carried out an autopsy and used DNA testing to identify the body.
Police are still investigating the murder, and a spokesman said there has been no conclusion about whether it was “criminal or nationalistic.” Local media reported on Thursday, though, that there were growing signs he was killed by Israeli Jews – an act of revenge for the murder of three Jewish young settlers, who were abducted last month and found dead in a valley outside Hebron on Monday.
There are cameras that recorded this. There is evidence... I feel as if I've lost everything.
For Abu Khdair’s family, there has been no doubt about the motives. “There are cameras that recorded this. There is evidence,” Hussein Abu Khdair, Mohammed’s father, told Al Jazeera. “I feel as if I’ve lost everything.”
Local youth clashed with border police near their home in Shuafat for more than 12 hours on Wednesday, with dozens of people injured. The fighting resumed on a smaller scale on Thursday, just a few hundred meters down the road.
At sunset on Thursday, as the neighbourhood prepared to break the Ramadan fast, Hussein returned from another trip to the police station. The family would have to wait another day to bury their son: Officials told him that the body will not be released until Friday afternoon.
“They took half my life,” said his mother, Suha, sitting in the family home surrounded by mourners. “I’m shocked, I don’t believe it… we don’t feel safe. There is no safety for us here,” she told Al Jazeera.
Mourners outside the family home on Thursday included Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, and Mohammed Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. Hussein told reporters that he holds Israel responsible for the murder.
Abu Khdair’s family said the same thing, blaming the government for mounting hostility toward Palestinians, who make up 20 percent of the population in Israel.
“We demand that the Israeli government find the criminals, and protect the Palestinian population,” said Ishaq Abu Khdair, an uncle. “Everyone in the government is responsible for this crime, from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu down.”
Netanyahu called the murder a “heinous” act, and urged everyone in Israel not to “take the law into their own hands.” But the prime minister also helped set the tone, using the word “vengeance” in a statement issued hours after the trio’s bodies were found. Calls for revenge have spread widely across social media, and police have been deployed heavily throughout Jerusalem and in the north.
On Thursday the Israeli army announced that four soldiers from the Kfir Brigade, an infantry unit that operates in the West Bank, were jailed for calling for revenge against Palestinians. The soldiers posted photos of themselves on Facebook holding signs that said “Bibi, let us eliminate the terrorists,” referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
|Teenager’s death in Jerusalem escalates tension|
At least a half-dozen Palestinians have been assaulted this week. One of them, a 23-year-old from Petah Tikva, was reportedly beaten and stabbed on by men who told him “Arabs belong in the grave,” according to Yediot Aharonot.
Abu Khdair’s murder has been widely condemned by Israeli politicians across the political spectrum. Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, told Channel 2 that “all the calls for revenge are out of place, even if they do come from the heart”.
The uncle of Naftali Frenkel, one of the three murdered Israelis, called for an end to the violence in a statement released on Thursday.
“There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder,” said Yishai Frenkel. “Whatever the nationality or age, there is no justification, no forgiveness and no atonement for any murder.”
Back in Shuafat, Abu Khdair’s mother said she hoped no other mothers would have to experience her pain.
But she also cast doubts on how seriously Israel will pursue and punish her son’s killers. Security forces have already named two suspects in last month’s murders, both residents of the Hebron area who reportedly have not been seen since the crime. The army demolished their homes earlier this week, even though neither has been convicted.
“The person who killed my son, he should be put in jail, his house should be destroyed. I want him to receive the same treatment as whoever killed the settlers,” she said.
Follow Gregg on Twitter: @glcarlstrom