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Palestinian goes on trial in stabbing attack on fellow 13-year-old

Israeli paramedics and security forces evacuate a wounded Palestinian boy who was shot after an Israeli security guard was stabbed at a tramway station in the neighbourhood of Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem on Nov. 10, 2015..

Israeli paramedics and security forces evacuate a wounded Palestinian boy who was shot after an Israeli security guard was stabbed at a tramway station in the neighbourhood of Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem on Nov. 10, 2015..

(Ahmad Gharabli / AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian teenager went on trial in Jerusalem on Tuesday, accused in a near-fatal stabbing attack that for many stood out amid the recent violent flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the indictment, cited by his attorney, young cousins Ahmed and Hassan Manasra set out last month with knives from their East Jerusalem area of Beit Hanina to the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev. There they stabbed a man in his 20s and a 13-year-old boy, according to the indictment, leaving the younger victim critically injured.

Hassan Manasra, 15, was shot dead by police, and Ahmed Manasra, 13, was hit by a car, detained and taken to a Jerusalem hospital.

The attack, coming amid a string of knife assaults by Palestinians against Israelis in Jerusalem and elsewhere, struck many because of the youth of those involved, the false accusations of Palestinian leaders that Ahmed Manasra also was killed at the scene and video images of the victims that later surfaced.

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Parts of the incident were captured by surveillance cameras that purport to show the two cousins running with knives, chasing one of the victims. Video also showed the Jewish boy being attacked as he left a candy store on his bicycle, but the images circulated by police did not show which of the assailants stabbed the two victims.

The Palestinian teen was indicted this month, charged with two counts of attempted murder. On Tuesday, he admitted participating in the attack but denied stabbing either victim or intending to commit murder, said his attorney, Tariq Barghouth.

Ahmed’s young age, which was shocking to many at the time of the attack, is a factor in his legal case as well. If his trial does not conclude before he turns 14 in January and he is convicted, he could be sent to prison.

The defense will seek a revised indictment to charge the teen with being an accessory, Barghouth said.

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“Ahmed admits he took part in the event but does not admit the stabbings,” he said. “He did not intend to murder anyone, only to scare. He even tried to dissuade his cousin from stabbing the boy.”

Barghouth believes the trial can be concluded before the teen’s birthday. In that case, if convicted he could be sent to a juvenile facility for rehabilitation.

“This is in the boy’s best interest and should be that of the court,” said the lawyer, adding that there is a reason the law does not impose jail sentences for those younger than 14. “Full comprehension of murder, intent or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at this age is highly in doubt.”

Barghouth said that if the prosecution drags out the case until the teen can be sent to prison, the defense will argue that the tactic represents abuse of process. In the meantime, the panel of three judges specializing in juvenile cases has ordered Ahmed to remain in an undisclosed facility for 70 days.

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A video from Ahmed’s interrogation that was circulated Tuesday angered many Palestinians. The video shows a police interrogator questioning the teen harshly, shouting and calling him a liar.

The 13-year-old appears distraught and crying and repeats that he does not remember the details accurately, begging to stop the interrogation. Ultimately he breaks down and appears to accept the interrogators’ version of event while insisting that he doesn’t remember.

“Such mental pressure is unjustified and illegitimate,” said Barghouth, who said the interrogator in question was certified to question minors.

Former Shin Bet official Yaron Bloom agreed that this was “not a pleasant sight” but sometimes necessary in such investigations. “He is being charged with very grave acts,” he told Israel Radio.

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The knife attacks in recent months have rekindled violence across the West Bank and in Jerusalem. A period of relative calm in the city over the last two weeks was broken Tuesday with a pair of assaults. In one case, two security guards shot a Palestinian man who chased them with a knife. He died of his injuries in a hospital, police said.

The second incident echoed the Manasra case, when two young boys riding the tram attacked a security guard and stabbed him with a knife and scissors. The injured guard shot and seriously injured one assailant, an 11-year-old boy, according to police. Passengers seized the second assailant, described as a 14-year-old boy.

The two boys were identified as relatives from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.

The 11-year-old will not face charges because he is under the age of criminal responsibility.

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Sobelman is a special correspondent.


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