Mourners gathered Saturday at the East Jerusalem home of an eight-year-old boy who was found dead in a pool of rainwater that morning after he had gone missing Friday afternoon.
Qais Abu Ramila apparently slipped into and drowned in the pond formed following days of rain in the city’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, police sources said.
His body was found after hours of search efforts by police, first responders and hundreds of volunteers.
“My son Qais is a smart and special boy,” said his mother, Mariam, according to the Ynet news outlet. “He was always hugging, playing in the house. He was the flower of the family.”
Abu Ramila was last seen alive around 4 p.m. on Friday. His family said he had gone to a convenience store to buy items for the family and was found with a 50 shekel bill that his father had given him for the purchase.
“Since yesterday I haven’t slept, I was waiting for him to return. I prayed I would hear his voice again, and to my sorrow, he came back to us lifeless,” his mother said in a eulogy.
His father said: “Yesterday I embraced you and we played together. I saw your smile all over our house, and today I embrace you without hearing a word from you and without seeing your smile. You will remain in our hearts.”
The family awaits results of an investigation into the incident, and has said that the pit where he was found near their home still presents a danger to area residents, especially children. It wasn’t clear how Abu Ramila had fallen in. The family is opposed to an autopsy of the boy’s body.
Authorities had focused their search on the pool of water near Beit Hanina after tracking dogs picked up Abu Ramila’s scent in the area, speculating that he may have fallen in. Video footage from the scene showed first responders wading through the water with searchlights.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 24, 2020
Police said “efforts at the rainwater reservoir lasted throughout the night… Unfortunately the boy was found lifeless, and Magen David Adom [paramedics] were forced to declare him dead.”
After his body was found, his father castigated the Jerusalem municipality for not sealing off the area around the pond.
Police had asked the public for assistance in locating the boy and hundreds of volunteers helped comb the neighborhood.
His family initially said he was kidnapped on his way to the store, but later reversed that claim, according to the Haaretz daily.
Clashes broke out overnight after Beit Hanina residents searching for Abu Ramila tried to enter a nearby Jewish neighborhood, believing residents had kidnapped the boy. Residents were blocked from entering Neve Yaakov and some of the demonstrators threw rocks at police.
Some 12 demonstrators were lightly injured in scuffles with police and officers arrested three of the protesters for disturbing public order.
The boy’s father was questioned by police and authorities carried out background checks on family members as part of routine investigation procedures.
Relatives of Abu Ramila had issued security footage they said showed the boy being kidnapped, but his immediate family and police said that the video had no connection to the case.