The Israel Police said Tuesday morning that it will open an investigation into the funeral of an Arab Israeli man who tried to stab a police officer, saying that the hundreds of people who participated were a violation of the conditions it agreed with the family for a low-key ceremony.
Police said in a statement they will seek the forfeiture of a NIS 50,000 bond the family of Ahmed Muhammad Mahameed had provided as a guarantee that the funeral, held early Tuesday morning in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, would stay within the guidelines.
Mahameed was shot dead last week as he tried to stab an officer in a terrorist attack in the Old City of Jerusalem. His body was returned to his family overnight Monday after an agreement was reached on the number of people who would take part in the funeral as well as the route and time of the ceremony.
Fireworks were lit in the town to mark the return of the body, and hundreds attended the funeral. During the procession participants chanted “in spirit and blood we will redeem you martyr.”
According to police the funeral was limited to just 150 family members, but “many hundreds were seen participating contrary to the order which defined the time of the funeral, the route, the number of participants.”
“Due to not fulfilling the conditions, police will open an investigation on suspicion of not following instructions and violating an order and will act for the forfeiture of the monetary deposit,” the statement said.
Israeli officials argue that funerals for deceased attackers — who were killed as they stabbed, shot, or rammed Israelis — often turn into mass rallies in support of Palestinian terrorism, and withhold their bodies until the relatives agree to hold subdued burials that don’t include calls for further attacks.
Police noted in their statement that contrary to earlier media reports “which were apparent given to media by interested parties” the conditions for the funeral were negotiated between police and the family and not as a result of a High Court of Justice order, “and certainly not in negotiations with one organization or another.”
Media had reported that The Adaleh Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel had played a key role the negotiatons for Mahameed’s body to be released.
Police said Friday that Mahameed emerged from the direction of the Temple Mount in the Old City of of Jerusalem and approached a group of policemen, pulling out a knife and attempting to stab one of them.
The officers scuffled with the assailant and one of them shot him, killing him.
Mahameed’s family said that he struggled with mental health issues, and had not carried out the attack for nationalistic reasons. He did not have a history of involvement in security offenses.
The family condemned the officer who fired the fatal shot for “having a light trigger finger.”
The Umm al-Fahm Municipality released a statement Saturday condemning police for what it called the “cold-blooded murder” of its resident.
Police said an initial probe of the incident had shown police fire was entirely justified.
The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday extended by two days the detention of three men suspected of involvement in the attempted stabbing attack, overruling the Magistrate’s Court which had released them to house arrest.
The suspects, all residents of the northern Israel Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, were arrested in the hours after the attack after police identified them walking through the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City close to Mahameed.