JERUSALEM: Israeli police flooded east Jerusalem ahead of the funeral of a Palestinian teenager believed killed by Israelis and the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, who was kidnapped and found dead on Wednesday, was to be buried in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood after the midday (0900 GMT) prayers, with tensions running high after two straight days of violence.
Israeli commanders meanwhile waited to see if a series of statements by Israeli leaders promising to “meet quiet with quiet” would bring a halt to the latest flare-up of violence on the Gaza border.
Media reports spoke of a possible truce in the making after a week of militant rocket fire into southern Israel and retaliatory air strikes against Gaza.
There were no official statements from Israel or its Hamas foe in Gaza and the army reported that four rockets were fired at Israel on Friday morning, with one intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and at least two hitting open ground.
An Israeli police statement said that “thousands of police were deployed this morning in east Jerusalem in order to maintain security.”
Tens of thousands of worshippers were expected to head for the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque complex for the main weekly prayers on the first Friday of Ramadan.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP that following a late-night situation assessment, police commanders decided to limit access by men to the complex to those over 50 years of age. There were no restrictions on women, he said.
After the prayers, Abu Khder’s funeral was to be held in Shuafat, a day later than originally planned after his body was held so that pathologists could complete a post-mortem.
Many believe he was killed in revenge for the abduction and murder in the occupied West Bank last month of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found on Monday.
Israeli police say the motive for Abu Khder’s killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.
In Shuafat and other parts of Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem, Palestinians clashed with police for a second straight day on Thursday, hurling rocks and fireworks at Israeli police and burning tires.
Israel warned Hamas on Thursday to put a stop to rocket fire from its Gaza power base and sent army reinforcements to its Gaza border.
But it also offered to de-escalate if the Islamist movement would do the same.
“We are prepared for two possibilities in the south,” army radio quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as telling a July 4 reception at the U.S. ambassador’s residence.
“That the fire at our communities will stop and our activities will also stop, or that the fire at our residents of the south will continue and then the reinforced troops which are in place will act forcefully.”