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I heard the gunfire from my hotel, and found the teenager lying outside the cathedral where Archbishop Welby preached peace days ago… RICHARD PENDLEBURY at the scene of the Jerusalem attack


He lay, face up, in the gutter, beside the entrance to St George’s cathedral where the Archbishop of Canterbury had preached peace and reconciliation only a few days before.

I heard the fatal shots from my bathroom, while completing a belated shave; two bursts of automatic fire that cut through the noise of children at play in the primary school next door.

By the time I reached the scene, 17-year-old Adam Abu Alhawa’s blood had snaked some 30 feet down the gentle slope that is the Nablus road; as vivid in the warm sunshine as the bougainvillea tumbling over the wall by the French consulate.

From the back of their vehicle, ambulance men in blue rubber gloves were removing a cardboard box upon which was written the words ‘Baby Wipes’.

Presently, the boy’s corpse was lifted – rather roughly – into the centre of the road and placed inside a black body bag, which was then shoved into another before the whole ghastly parcel was removed altogether in an armoured van. Soon after, the traffic was moving again.

Sudden death on a beautiful morning in Jerusalem. The Palestinian teenager was gunned down as he fled on foot, having reportedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli border policeman at a nearby petrol station.

His family would be punished by the authorities, everyone expected that. Hate for hate, tit for tat, an eye for an eye, as is the age-old custom here. In any case, what is one death among so many?

By the time I reached the scene, 17-year-old Adam Abu Alhawa's blood had snaked some 30 feet down the gentle slope that is the Nablus road. Pictured: Adam Abu Alhawa

By the time I reached the scene, 17-year-old Adam Abu Alhawa’s blood had snaked some 30 feet down the gentle slope that is the Nablus road. Pictured: Adam Abu Alhawa

The mother of Adam Abu Alhawa crying inside their home after he was shot dead by police

The mother of Adam Abu Alhawa crying inside their home after he was shot dead by police

On October 7, Hamas terrorists based in the Gaza Strip broke through the border to slaughter some 1,300 Israelis, mainly civilians. Since then, retaliatory Israeli air strikes have reportedly killed 8,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

The killing continues apace as the Israeli ground offensive gathers momentum.

Yet what we witnessed yesterday seemed to summon up the abyss towards which this country, perhaps the region, is heading.

Gaza is aflame. The occupied West Bank could be next. Who then was Adam Abu Alhawa? Why did the boy decide to do what he did, with so little hope of escaping alive? A middle-aged Palestinian approaches me, discreetly, at the police cordon. He asks where I am from. Then, an unexpected question. Would I mind taking his phone, moving closer to the police line and photographing the corpse, to help confirm its identity to the family?

‘The police will cause me trouble if they know I am related,’ Ahmed explains. Then, ‘He (the dead boy) was my cousin. His name is Adam. I can take you to his house, if you like?’

We go in Ahmed’s car. We have to take a detour, via the Jaffa Gate, as the Israeli security forces are already shutting down roads around the perpetrator’s neighbourhood, as they always do on these grim occasions.

Along the way we pass a young Jewish couple walking their baby in a buggy. The man is carrying an assault rifle.

Ahmed had also heard the shots and was then phoned by a nephew who said that he thought Adam was involved. The family asked Ahmed to investigate.

He sighs. ‘He is not the first boy and will not be last (to die). We should have a normal life, but now we are living in the end of days. Even if Adam did what they (the Israelis) say he did, who made him do that? No one. It is the current situation.’

Ahmed makes his living guiding tourists from around the world. But since October 7 the city has been empty. ‘Look there, at the Garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus was arrested before his crucifixion), normally so many people, now no one.’

It is hard here to escape Biblical allusions. Adam’s family live on Palm Sunday Road, at the very top of the Mount of Olives, from which Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven.

The Palestinian teenager was gunned down as he fled on foot, having reportedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli border policeman at a nearby petrol station. Pictured: The IDF at the scene

The Palestinian teenager was gunned down as he fled on foot, having reportedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli border policeman at a nearby petrol station. Pictured: The IDF at the scene 

I heard the fatal shots from my bathroom, while completing a belated shave; two bursts of automatic fire that cut through the noise of children at play in the primary school next door. Pictured: The IDF at the scene

I heard the fatal shots from my bathroom, while completing a belated shave; two bursts of automatic fire that cut through the noise of children at play in the primary school next door. Pictured: The IDF at the scene 

They have lived here for 700 years, Ahmed says. But we cannot reach the house, at first. Another police cordon has been set up outside the Chapel of the Ascension.

The young, female, Israeli officer, armed with an assault rifle, is not friendly. ‘This area is closed, you must go,’ we are ordered. The atmosphere is extremely tense.

Not long after, though, the police pull out, retreating slowly with weapons drawn, further up the hill. A crowd of family members and neighbours then advance on the two-storey property with views across the Kidron Valley towards Bethany and Bethlehem.

We are encouraged by family to enter the dead boy’s home to see what has just taken place there.

The boy’s father, Nasser, has been handicapped since birth and can walk only with sticks.

He earned his living selling postcards and photographs of tourists next to the family’s camel. In the past hour he has been taken into police custody along with two of his three daughters – Fatima and Asil – and a cousin.

His wife Mariam is present, but hysterical. Her modest house is a scene of devastation.

The door of the family fridge has been torn from its hinges and food trampled underfoot. Mirrors are smashed, beds and chairs upended and belongings strewn on the floor.

I am handed a fragment of Adam’s Jordanian passport – Jerusalem was part of Jordan until 1967 – that has been torn in half. Family members claim they were beaten in the raid and had cash removed.

They fear the house will be demolished, as happens to the homes of those who attack the Israeli security forces.

‘They (the Israelis) are the terrorists, not the people of Gaza,’ Mariam cries. ‘They have shot my son, beaten us, stolen from us and destroyed my home.’

‘She does not know yet that Adam is dead,’ an uncle whispers to me. ‘Please do not tell her yet. The Israelis will not admit it officially until the army has secured the area.’

The family seem genuinely bewildered at Adam’s death. He worked with his older brother Ahmad, making aluminium windows. He had no known connections, they say, with radicals. ‘It’s no longer safe in this country,’ says Ahmed. ‘The people have now come to hate each other.

‘It’s not just the Israeli state against Hamas but the people against the people. I think this is the last war between Palestine and Israel. No one can even stop it now.’

Outside, on Palm Sunday Road, Adam’s aunt is venting to a local television crew.

‘They are doing this because they want our land!’ she shouts. ‘They want us to go, but we will never give up!’

As we leave, we hear gunshots on the Mount of Olives.

‘There will be trouble now,’ says Ahmed. He takes us to have coffee in his home overlooking the Dome of the Rock.

The windows rattle as Israel’s Iron Dome system intercepts incoming rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza.



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