Trial starts for Palestinian teen suspected in knife attack

Posted at 5:32 AM, Nov 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-10 06:32:23-05

JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian teen went on trial before a Jerusalem court on Tuesday over a stabbing attack last month that fueled a media war amid the ongoing deadly surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

According to the indictment, 13-year-old Ahmed Manasra and his cousin Hassan, 15, stabbed two Jewish settlers in an east Jerusalem neighborhood in mid-October. Police fatally shot Hassan and a passing car ran over Ahmed. The Israeli victims, aged 20 and 13, survived their wounds.

The case became a lightning rod for both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian divide after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas erroneously claimed in a televised speech that Israelis had "summarily executed" Ahmed. The 13-year-old at the time was recovering at an Israeli hospital.

Israel promptly accused Abbas — as it has done repeatedly in the past months — of fomenting violence with what it says are incendiary comments.

For their part, Palestinians were enraged by video that surfaced on social media showing Ahmed lying in the street, his head bloodied as bystanders curse him and shout "Die!" in Hebrew. The video made no mention of the preceding attack.

Since mid-September, 12 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbing assaults. Meanwhile, 75 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 48 said by Israel to have been involved in attacks or attempted attacks. The other Palestinians died in clashes between stone-throwers and security forces.

The latest bloodshed was triggered by unrest at a major Jerusalem shrine revered by both Muslims and Jews, and quickly spread to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza border.

On Monday, Palestinian media released footage showing Jerusalem police questioning Ahmed.

In the video, which is likely to raise further controversy, police officers show Ahmed footage of him and his cousin wielding knives and chasing a man through the streets of the Pisgat Zeev settlement. One of the officers shouts at Ahmed, "Is this you, this person?" as the teen cries and says he doesn't remember.

It was unclear how Palestinian media obtained the video or who filmed the Israeli investigation.

Attorney Lea Tsemel, who is representing Ahmed, said she may contest the investigation based on the manner of questioning seen in the video. "You cannot terrify or threaten or tempt for the purpose of achieving a confession," she said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the investigation was conducted "with professionalism and without bias."

In the latest wave of violence, Palestinian attacks on Israelis have largely been carried out by individuals with no ties to militant groups. Motives often remain murky, but relatives of assailants have cited as potential triggers both the pressures of life under Israeli occupation and videos seen on social media.

Also Tuesday, Israeli troops arrested 24 suspected Hamas operatives in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya. The Israeli army said it uncovered a "vast Hamas network," funded and directed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Qatar.

Hamas, a militant Islamic movement that controls the Gaza Strip, has encouraged the latest stabbing attacks but hasn't claimed responsibility for them.

After Tuesday's arrests, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said they will not deter other attackers but "will boost our people's insistence to continue the Intifada and make the occupation pay the price of its crimes."