JERUSALEM: Four neat bullet holes pock-mark the wall on the roof of Muataz Hijazi’s family home in east Jerusalem, where Israeli police shot the 32-year-old dead at dawn Thursday.
Relatives and neighbors say he was murdered, but police say he opened fire on them when they went to arrest him for severely wounding a radical Jewish activist in a shooting the night before.
Downstairs, the living room still reeked of tear gas.
On nearby sidestreets, riot police fired gas canisters and rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian youths, in ongoing clashes that erupted after the assault.
Family members coughed and spluttered, their eyes streaming—from the tear gas and from their grief.
Hijazi’s 34-year-old brother Khalil put on a brave face as he greeted well-wishers who came to pay their respects.
“They burst into the house shortly before 6 a.m., ransacked Muataz’s room and then shot him on the roof,” said Khalil, who lives in a neighboring house.
The bedroom had been turned inside out, with sheets strewn across the floor and chests of drawers pulled out and emptied.
It was unclear whether Hijazi had fled to the roof or whether he was armed, but neighbors and relatives said police dragged him from his bedroom to the roof and shot him there.
Police said Hijazi began shooting at officers who returned fire, killing him.
None of the neighbors or relatives could confirm whether he was armed, but his brother is certain he didn’t open fire.
“He didn’t shoot anyone,” he said.
The victim’s sister, Shaima, 26, removed a green surgical mask, which she had used against the tear gas to talk to journalists.
“Police surrounded the house and burst in. I ran outside, and after that they killed my brother,” she said.
His father and another brother were both arrested, the family said.
Neighbor Ayman Shweiki held out a plastic bag of some 20 bullet casings, from assault rifles and pistols.
“This was an assassination, a liquidation,” he said. “They took him to the roof and shot him. These are from the bullets they fired.
“They could have shot him in the legs, couldn’t they? But they shot him in the head.”
Another neighbor showed a picture on an iPhone, purportedly of Muataz’s body slumped against the wall where he was shot.
“There were bits of his head and brain found at the scene, and on cars down below the house,” Shweiki said.
Police had also burst into several neighboring houses.
Maryam Hijazi, a cousin of the victim who lives next door, said police arrested her brother and sister in a simultaneous raid, and took them in for questioning.
After the gunshots had rung out from the cluster of homes inhabited by the Hijazis and their neighbors in the crowded and hilly part of Abu Tor, in Arab east Jerusalem, dozens of police surrounded the area and later appearing on adjacent rooftops.
Residents, chanting “Allahu akbar” (God is greater), went out onto their balconies to watch the aftermath of the raids, with some throwing debris on the officers in the streets below.
A standoff between local youths and riot police continued in earnest until the afternoon, with police firing foam or rubber bullets and countless rounds of tear gas down small alleyways.
Stones littered the roads, cars with shattered windows lined the pavements and a rubbish skip had been pulled across the middle of the main street to protect against police gunfire.
In between the deafening gunshots, a mosque loudspeaker rang out with a Quranic prayer for the dead: “Please pray for the martyr Muataz Hijazi. We belong to God, and to him we will return.”