Teenager becomes a focus in Israel-Palestinian conflict

Palestinian Ahmed Manasra, 13, sits in his hospital bed Thursday in Jerusalem after he stabbed two Israelis with his cousin.
Palestinian Ahmed Manasra, 13, sits in his hospital bed Thursday in Jerusalem after he stabbed two Israelis with his cousin.
Published Oct. 16, 2015

JERUSALEM — The fate of a Palestinian boy seized center stage Thursday in the battle of narratives accompanying the recent burst of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ignited an uproar in Israel after falsely claiming in a televised speech that Israelis had "summarily executed" Ahmed Manasra, when the 13-year-old actually was recovering at an Israeli hospital after he stabbed two Israelis, including a boy his own age.

Palestinians, in turn, were enraged by video showing Ahmed lying in the street, his head bloodied and his legs splayed, as bystanders curse him and shout "Die!" in Hebrew. The images, widely circulated on social media, made no mention of the preceding attack by Ahmed and his cousin Hassan, 15, who was shot and killed by police Monday.

The case has become a lightning rod for both sides.

Israel has repeatedly accused Abbas of fomenting violence with what it says are incendiary comments.

"Now, we have a new big lie. That new big lie is that Israel is executing Palestinians," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. Still, he said he would be "perfectly open" to meeting Abbas to address what the Israeli leader said was a wave of incitement.

Abbas, who has long argued that armed attacks on Israelis go against Palestinian interests, has denied the Israeli allegations that he is fomenting unrest. He did not immediately respond to Netanyahu's offer.

In his speech Wednesday, Abbas said Israel has engaged in excessive force and the "summary execution of our children in cold blood."

The high-level name-calling highlighted the abyss between the two leaders, at a time when prospects for a return to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations appear nil.

In the past month, eight Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings. During the same period, 31 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 14 labeled by Israel as attackers, and the others in clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli troops.

Israel has increased security across the country in response to the unrest. On Thursday, the military said it would deploy 300 soldiers in Jerusalem to help police maintain order, guard public transportation and the city's main streets.

Both sides use social media to promote their official narratives.

Israeli officials have released security camera videos of the attacks.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the strategy is to spread Israel's messages and complain to popular services about allegedly offensive comment. He said Israel persuaded Google's YouTube service and Facebook to remove several Palestinian videos.

Palestinian authorities, meanwhile, have focused on releasing amateur video appearing to show Israeli police using excessive force.