Palestinians bury slain teen, clashes hit E.Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Thousands of Palestinians, some firing weapons into the air, took part Friday in the emotionally charged east Jerusalem funeral of a Palestinian teenager believed murdered by Israelis.

Chanting "with our blood and our spirit we shall sacrifice for the martyr," mourners carried the shrouded body of Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, through his neighbourhood of Shuafat as flag-waving crowds thronged the narrow streets.

Before and after Abu Khder was buried in a local cemetery, Palestinians clashed with Israeli police near the procession and elsewhere in annexed east Jerusalem. Thousands of officers were deployed in case of widespread unrest.

It was the third straight day of violence since Abu Khder was kidnapped and found dead on Wednesday in suspected revenge for the abduction and murder last month of three Israeli teenagers.

Palestinians threw stones at police, who responded with "riot dispersal means", spokesman Luba Samri said in a statement, adding that 13 police were lightly injured. The Red Crescent said 62 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, one of them by a live bullet.

The teenager's funeral coincided with the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Despite the occasion, just 8,000 worshippers attended the prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, said Ms Samri.

Last year there were 80,000 worshippers there on the same day. The funeral came a day later than originally planned after the youth's body was held for pathologists to complete a post-mortem. Israeli police say the motive for Abu Khder's killing is still unclear.

Meanwhile, military commanders 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 border with the Gaza Strip.

Hamas said efforts were under way with Egyptian mediators to reach a truce after a week of militant rocket fire into southern Israel and retaliatory air strikes against Gaza. "There are continuing Egyptian efforts to return calm to the Gaza Strip, but no agreement has been reached yet," a Hamas official said.

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim said: "Hamas is not interested in an escalation or war in Gaza, but at the same time it is not possible for it to remain silent on the continued aggression against Gaza and the West Bank."

The army reported that at least 14 projectiles were fired at Israel since Friday morning, one of them crashing down in Gaza and three intercepted over southern Israel by the Iron Dome defence system.

On Friday night, Israeli warplanes attacked "three Hamas terror targets" in southern Gaza in retaliation for the "constant rocket fire at southern Israel", the military said. Gaza medical sources said nobody was injured in the attacks.

But a medical official said a Gaza farmer was in serious condition after being shot by Israeli soldiers near the border fence. An army spokesman said soldiers had identified two men "meddling with an explosive device in the ground" in central Gaza and shot at one of them, identifying a hit.

Israel warned Hamas on Thursday to put a stop to rocket fire from its Gaza power base and sent army reinforcements to the border. But it also offered to de-escalate if the Islamist movement would do the same.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said if "the firing at our communities stops... our operations will stop too," but if attacks on southern Israel continue, "the reinforcement troops in the field will act forcefully".