Police, Protesters Clash After Funeral of East Jerusalem Teen

Mohammad Sunuqrut, who died on Sunday, was evacuated by Palestinian Red Crescent after a Magen David Adom ambulance was ordered to wait for police escort.

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Palestinians carrying the body of Mohammed Sunuqrut during his funeral in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Wadi Joz, September 8, 2014.
Palestinians carrying the body of Mohammed Sunuqrut during his funeral in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Wadi Joz, September 8, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Violent clashes broke out between police and Palestinian youths on Monday after the funeral of an East Jerusalem teen who died on Sunday, a week after sustaining a head injury during protests in the city.

Police released the body of Mohammed Sunuqrut, 16, to his family yesterday afternoon at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. Earlier yesterday, an autopsy was performed on the body at the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv, with a Palestinian pathologist present as per the family’s request.

The funeral procession left from the family home in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood, past the Old City. Sunuqrut was buried in the cemetery north of the Damascus Gate. The Jerusalem police prepared for the funeral by calling in heavy reinforcements.

Hundreds of people took part in protests during the funeral, throwing rocks, fire bombs and fireworks at police officers. Police responded with tear gas and foam-tipped bullets. At least three arrests were made. Palestinian sources say dozens of people were injured in the unrest, including two who were hit in the head by foam-tipped bullets. One man required surgery.

Police say that on August 31, Sunuqrut was throwing rocks during protests in the Wadi Joz neighborhood when an officer shot him in the leg with a foam-tipped bullet. They say he fell and hit his head. But Sunuqrut’s family dispute that, saying police shot him in the head at close range.

A recording of the call made by a local resident to the Magen David Adom ambulance service – and heard by Haaretz – indicates that it took at least 15 minutes for Sunuqrut to be evacuated to hospital, apparently because the MDA ambulance, which arrived at the entrance to Wadi Joz in nine minutes, had to wait for a police escort before proceeding.

In the end, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance, seemingly called by someone else, arrived in 11 minutes and took another several minutes to evacuate Sunuqrut to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. Some hours later, Sunuqrut was transferred to Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem in critical condition. He was declared clinically dead on Thursday and died Sunday.

In recent years, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has criticized the policy of delaying the entrance of rescue services into East Jerusalem neighborhoods. Ten months ago ACRI attorney Keren Tzafrir sent a letter to the Health Ministry, asking that in cases where the security situation may delay access by MDA vehicles, the call be immediately passed to the Red Crescent. In this instance, there was apparently no automatic transfer of the call.

A MDA spokesperson said that in areas where there is violence, the police insist that its ambulances wait for police escorts, to prevent harm to medical teams. In any case, the spokesperson said, its ambulance was stood down by the Red Crescent when the latter rescue service sent its own.

Jerusalem Police said a patrol car had been dispatched to Wadi Joz, but was also canceled when the Red Crescent intervened.

“This is another sad story proving that Jerusalem remains, as always, divided,” said Yudith Oppenheimer, executive director of the Ir Amim association, whose researcher obtained the MDA recording. “Anyone with eyes in his head can see that the ‘united city’ is an empty and painful slogan.”

There was rioting in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods on Sunday night after Sunuqrut’s death was reported. Two firebombs were thrown at pumps at a gas station on the border between the French Hill neighborhood and the Arab neighborhood of Isawiyah. Rioters also broke into and vandalized the adjacent convenience store.

After the violence on Sunday night, police closed the road between Isawiyah and French Hill – the main route into Isawiyah – as well as the road from the neighborhood to Mount Scopus, leaving only one road in and out of Isawiyah.
“Nearly 18,000 people live here, that’s collective punishment,” Isawiyah resident Mohammed Abu Houmous said yesterday. “Half the children didn’t go to school today because of it.”

Eli Rosenfeld, chairman of the French Hill Community Administration, called the unrest “a strategic escalation.”

“This is no terror cell of two or three terrorists who sneak in and throw a firebomb. It’s 40 to 50 people who went into the gas station and wreaked havoc in the neighborhood. …They could just as easily have continued onto the school.

“A police station needs to be positioned here, and at the same time [the state] must continue to invest in Isawiyah,” Rosenfeld said. “Feelings are very high now in French Hill,” he added. “If they’re making the leap from coexistence to extremism here, that’s very frightening.”

Since the beginning of July there have been over 80 cases of rock throwing at the light rail trains, and has caused many train cars to be damaged and taken out of service, causing delays and disruptions to operations.

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