Israeli police said foul play was not involved in the apparent suicide of an East Jerusalem bus driver overnight, deflecting claims by relatives that the man was killed by Jewish extremists in a revenge attack.
Police said Monday morning that no signs of violence were found on the body of the driver, identified in Palestinian media as Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, 32, who was found hanging from a rope inside a bus at a depot for Israeli transportation company Egged late Sunday night.
“However, in coordination and cooperation with the family, the body will be examined at the Forensic Institute,” police said in a statement. “Contrary to reports in the foreign press, there were no signs of violence found on the body.”
Just hours after the body was found, riots broke out in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Sunday-Monday. A number of Palestinian organizations in East Jerusalem called for a general strike that would also include Palestinian bus drivers, according to Israeli news outlet Ynet.
The incident sparked widespread unconfirmed reports online of a lynching by Israelis.
The man’s family told Palestinian media that signs of violence were found on the body and rejected the suicide claim.
Fellow bus driver Muatasem Fakeh said he had seen evidence that Ramouni was attacked. “We saw signs of violence on his body,” he told AFP. “He was hanged over the steps at the back of the bus in a place where it would be impossible to hang yourself alone,” he added.
Police said stones and firebombs were hurled at security forces in the capital’s A-Tur, Ras al-Amud and Abu Dis neighborhoods, prompting a response with riot dispersal methods, which generally means stun grenade and tear gas.
A bus driver was lightly injured in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after being pelted with stones.
In Silwan, three minors were arrested for throwing rocks at traffic.
Ramouni was a father of two from Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood. His family said he was not suicidal.
Pictures published by the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency purported to show bruises on Ramouni’s body.
The incident came several hours after a Jewish man was stabbed with a screwdriver while walking near Jerusalem’s Old City, once again ratcheting up tensions in the city after several days of shaky calm.
#صورة يوسف الرموني "أبو جهاد" 32 عاماً والذي وجد مشنوقاً في حافلة إيجد التي يعمل سائق لها في #القدس المحتلة
His attacker fled after the assault, and police said Monday morning a manhunt was still ongoing.
The victim, 32, from the Breslov Hassidic sect, was on Hanevi’im Street, which lies close to the seam between West and East Jerusalem, when an Arab man attacked him from behind with a screwdriver, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
The stabbed man managed to make his way to the Border Police station at the Old City’s Damascus Gate. The police escorted the victim to the Western Wall, where Magen David Adom emergency crews gave him first aid. He was then evacuated to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where he was said to be in light to moderate condition.
The assailant fled on foot in the direction of Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Police closed off the entrances to the Old City.
Police suspect nationalistic motives in the attack.
Last week, two Israelis were killed in stabbing attacks by Palestinians on the same day.
Israel Defense Forces soldier Almog Shiloni was stabbed to death in Tel Aviv; and 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus was killed outside the Alon Shvut settlement in the West Bank last Monday.
Tensions in Jerusalem have been swelling since July, when Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and murdered by a group of Jewish extremists who admitted to carrying out the killing as revenge for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens by Hamas operatives in the West Bank the previous month.
AFP contributed to this report.