Ultra-Orthodox protesters staged demonstrations in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, and Bnei Brak on Sunday evening against state plans to conduct an autopsy on the body of a four-year-old boy who was allegedly killed by his uncle in Jerusalem over the weekend.
Police said that hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters gathered in Shabbat Square and on Bar Ilan Road in Jerusalem, as well as on Nahar Yarden Street in Beit Shemesh. A smaller protest took place in Bnei Brak Sunday.
Police reported clashes and rioting in all three locations, saying that “hundreds of rioters were blocking roads, throwing rocks, and setting garbage cans alight.”
In a statement late Sunday, police said at least five people had been arrested and that officers were working to break up the protests. In photos from Jerusalem, protesters stirring on a road can be seen being sprayed by a police water cannon.
Jewish tradition generally opposes autopsies on the grounds that the human body is sacred and should not be tampered with after death. Exceptions are often made in murder or manslaughter cases and courts have in the past overruled the wishes of families.
Ultra-Orthodox protesters had called to take to the streets in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Modi’in Illit, Bnei Brak, and Safed, on Sunday to oppose the expected autopsy.
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The move came after a Jerusalem court accepted the request of the police and prosecutors to conduct the procedure on the body of the boy who died Sunday morning while in the hospital.
In a statement after the boy’s death on Sunday, Shaare Zedek Medical Center said “emergency staff and the pediatric intensive care unit fought for hours to save his life but unfortunately we must pronounce the child’s death.”
The family of the victim has appealed the decision and a hearing is set for Monday morning, Channel 12 reported.
According to an initial police probe, the boy did not respond Saturday morning to the calls of family members. After the father was called home from the synagogue, relatives noticed a family member’s door was locked and broke into his room, where they found the boy lying on the floor with signs of strangulation on his neck.
The relative, 27, was then arrested on suspicion of attempted murder by officers called to the scene. Hebrew media outlets on Sunday identified him as the boy’s uncle.
Ash Obel contributed to this report.