BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Large crowds of angry young Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers in Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem after thousands attended a funeral for a 13-year-old killed by an Israeli sniper a day earlier.
By day’s end it was unclear whether the latest cycle of violence to hit Jerusalem and the West Bank was growing or beginning to burn itself out. Israeli forces responded to violent rioting with tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds. Dozens of Palestinians were injured.
The mother of the slain Palestinian boy said, “My son went to school and never came home.” Abdel Rahman Obeidallah was in his uniform, his book bag by his side, when he was struck by a single .22-caliber round to the chest. Israeli military officials said troops had responded to rioters throwing rocks.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sought to assure the international community and his own constituency that he remained committed to nonviolence.
“We are not seeking a military confrontation, and we have given clear instructions to our security services, our young people and our crowds that we don’t want any escalation, but we want to protect ourselves,” Abbas said.
A Palestinian official said that Abbas was not trying to dissuade his people from attending angry protests that have swept across the West Bank.
A statement from the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee saluted “the masses of Palestinians who are confronting the occupation and its continuing aggression” and called on them to “stand united for a national act of self-defense.”
Israelis have accused the Palestinian leadership and Abbas of inciting crowds with false claims that Israel wants to change the delicate status quo at a holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.
Four Israelis were gunned down or stabbed to death in the past week; two Palestinian teens were shot by Israeli troops at violent protests.
Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Monday night called Abbas “a terrorist who had no desire for peace.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday toured the highway intersection in the West Bank where last week an Israeli couple driving their car were gunned down by Palestinians as the couple’s children sat in the back seat. Five members of an alleged Hamas cell were arrested in the killings.
Netanyahu had earlier warned that he was ready to take “harsh measures” in “an all-out war with Palestinian terror.” Yet, perhaps wary of further escalation, he has so far taken incremental steps.
On Tuesday, he announced that Israeli forces would deploy security cameras at all major junctions in the West Bank to respond rapidly to incidents and threats.
Israeli security personnel also demolished two homes in Jerusalem and sealed a room in another residence Tuesday as punishment against Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis last year.
During his tour in the West Bank, Netanyahu lashed out at critics in his own government who have accused him of being weak in the face of rising Palestinian terror.
More than 1,000 protesters, mostly from Israel’s right-wing nationalist camp, gathered outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem Monday night to demand a tougher response.
Among those who attended the protest were three members of Netanyahu’s cabinet. They criticized their own government for not taking harsher measures against Palestinians involved in the violence and called for increasing construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank on lands Palestinians seek for a future state.
Netanyahu said he fully supported the Israeli military. “And everyone knows it, except for those who say the opposite — who also know it,” he said.
Netanyahu warned “public leaders, especially in the settlement movement, to act responsibly and speak accurately,” according to Israeli news media.
His defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, warned Jewish settlers in the West Bank to stop comparing 2015 to the bloody second intifada in the early 2000s, when Palestinians launched waves of suicide bombings.
“These statements cause citizens to take the law into their hands. This is an unacceptable phenomenon, which sabotages our struggle against Jewish terror and adds fuel to the fire,” he said, according to Ynet news.
In Bethlehem, the streets filled with mourners attending the burial of young Obeidallah.
Asked if a third intifada was coming, Issa Karake, a senior Palestinian official, said, “I can tell you what is happening in popular rage.”
Obeidallah’s classmates pointed out a dried spot of blood on the pavement where their friend fell. A few hundred yards away, Israeli troops were visible on a watchtower. Asked what they felt, Ghassan Munther, a pint-size 13-year-old, pointed at the Israeli soldiers and said, “We’re not afraid of them. They’re afraid of us.”
Israeli news media on Tuesday quoted army officials who suggested that the shooting might have been a mistake, that a round intended for one of the instigators of the riot hit Obeidallah instead.
A military spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.
Egalsh reported from Jerusalem.