Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters spread from Jerusalem to Arab towns in northern Israel on Saturday following the funeral of an Arab teenager who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists in a revenge attack.
Tensions also remained high on Israel’s reinforced southern border with the Gaza Strip, although the number of rocket attacks fired from the Palestinian territory has declined in recent days amid reports that talks were underway regarding a possible truce. Militants fired at least two rockets at southern Israel on Saturday, but no damage or injuries were reported, the Israeli army said, adding it had launched several airstrikes overnight that hit suspected sites used by the militant group Hamas.
Riots erupted in east Jerusalem on Friday as thousands of Palestinians gathered for the burial of 16-year—old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The violence spread to Arab towns in northern Israel on early Saturday, with protesters throwing rocks at passing cars, burning tyres and lobbing rocks and firebombs at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Near the Arab town of Qalansawe, protesters also pulled over a car driven by an Israeli Jew, pulled him out and set the vehicle on fire, Ms. Samri said. The driver was not injured.
More than 20 people were arrested before the unrest subsided in the afternoon, she said.
Israel’s Arabs, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hold citizenship rights. But they often face discrimination and identify with the Palestinians.
Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem also used an electric saw to damage the light rail that connects the heavily Arab populated eastern sector of the city with the mostly Jewish West, Ms. Samri said.
The chaos began after three Israeli teenagers, one of whom was a U.S. citizen, were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a huge manhunt that ended with the gruesome discovery of their bodies earlier this week. The unrest escalated in east Jerusalem on Wednesday after Abu Khdeir’s burned body was found in a forest.
Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing the boy to avenge the deaths of the Israeli teens. Israeli police said an investigation is still underway and they have not yet determined who killed the boy or why.
Israeli leaders widely condemned the killing of the Arab youth, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice.
In a separate incident, relatives told The Associated Press that Abu Khdeir’s 15-year-old cousin Tariq, a U.S. citizen who goes to school in Florida, was beaten by police during clashes on Thursday ahead of the funeral. The U.S. Consulate had no immediate comment on the report.
Ms. Samri, the Israeli police spokeswoman, said that Tariq Abu Khdeir had resisted arrest and attacked police officers. He was detained with a slingshot used to fire stones at police, along with six other protesters, including some armed with knives, she said, adding that several officers were hurt in that specific protest, one of many that day.
Tariq’s father said he witnessed his son’s arrest and insisted the boy was not involved in the violence.
Israel launched a massive crackdown on the Islamic militant group Hamas after the abduction of the Israeli teens, while retaliatory Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes intensified. The military says Palestinian militants have fired more than 150 rockets at southern Israel, and it has responded with airstrikes on more than 70 targets in Gaza.