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 Israelis — aged 25 and 13 — in mid-October in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood. Police fatally shot Hassan and a passing car ran over Ahmed.
As Manasra’s trial began Tuesday, a security guard was stabbed and moderately wounded at the Pisgat Zeev light rail station by two Palestinian kids — a 12-year-old and 14-year-old. Manasra had previously been the youngest assailant in the latest round of violence.
Manasra’s attorneys pleaded guilty to some of the clauses in the indictment, but said the two cousins had no intention of killing the Israelis, Israel Radio reported. The case was expected to last past the defendant’s fourteenth birthday, which would allow the court to hand down a prison sentence.
Security guards outside the courthouse hurled stun grenades to disperse protesters. There were no injuries reported.
Manasra’s case became a lightning rod for both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian divide after Palestinian Authority 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 said were 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.
Since mid-September, 12 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings. Meanwhile, 75 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 48 said by Israel to have been involved in attacks or attempted attacks. The others were killed in violent clashes with security forces throughout the West Bank and on the Gaza border.
The latest bloodshed began in mid-September over what the Palestinians allege were Israeli intentions to alter the status quo at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is under Jordanian administrative control and where non-Muslims may visit but not pray. Israel denies the claims and calls them incitement to violence.
On Monday, Palestinian media released footage showing Jerusalem police questioning Ahmed.
In the video, which according to reports has fueled anger in the West Bank, police officers show Ahmed footage of him and his cousin wielding knives and chasing a man through the streets of Pisgat Zee’v. 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 terror groups.
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 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.”