Mohammed Abu Khdeir 1
Hussein Abu Khdeir and his wife, Suha, mourn the death of their son one year agoKate Shuttleworth for IBT

On the main street that dissects the Palestinian district of Shua'fat, East Jerusalem, the city's light railway passes boarded-up ticket machines and the remains of a broken station shelter, smashed during riots that raged for weeks in this restive neighbourhood in the summer of 2014.

Locals call it the Mohammed Abu Khdeir uprising, or intifada, after the 16-year-old Palestinian boy – a member of Shua'fat's biggest clan – was kidnapped outside a mosque, beaten and then burned alive by far-right Israeli vigilantes on 2 July 2014.

The violence that erupted after his brutal murder was the worst Jerusalem had seen for a decade. Gangs of youths, many of who knew Abu Khdeir, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police and soldiers, who responded with tear gas.

Following a manhunt by the Israeli police, a 30-year-old Israeli, Yousef Ben David, and two teenagers who cannot be named for legal reasons, were arrested. They later admitted that they had "gone looking for an Arab to kill" and that Mohammed was picked at random.

A year on, the scars of that terrible crime and the violence it provoked still remain.

"After the killing of Mohammed, life here has changed. It is not like it used to be. I know some people who are really afraid to let their kids out at night," said Mustafa Abdeen, 16, from a shop on the main drag through Shua'fat.

Mohammed was Abdeen's friend and he recalls sitting with the young man outside the pet store next to his family shop: "Mohammed was a really joyful guy, he was a nice person to be around and he loved making jokes," he said.

Mahmoud Hamad, 15, also remembers sitting on the street with Mohammed, sharing cigarettes.

"I miss him. I still have a video I recorded of him and sometimes I play it to remember him. It's a simple recording of him while he's talking on the phone," he said.

In the Abu Khdeir family home opposite the main mosque in Shua'fat, Mohammed's father, Hussein, and mother, Suha, await the call to prayer to mark the end of that day's Ramadan fast. The muezzin's voice is dry and his prayer slower after 16 hours without food and water in the hot sun.

The end of the fast is supposed to be a joyous occasion for Muslims, a time for eating and socialising with family and unwinding with friends, but Hussein and Saha feel nothing but despair.

"We don't feel the taste of Ramadan this year. It's our first year without Mohammed.
I can't believe it's almost a year since he died. I still feel like it happened yesterday. Everything went so fast," said Suha.

"Even before Ramadan started this year a bad feeling was welling inside me. When they kidnapped him they took my life; I have no meaning in my life now. I couldn't eat food during the first day of breaking the fast, I just looked at it," she said.

Mohammed Abu Khdeir 2
Mohammed Abu Khdeir's empty chair at his graduation ceremony a few weeks agoKate Shuttleworth for IBT

Suha sits beside a photograph album filled with photos of Mohammed with friends and family, many are taken from his collection of selfies from his Facebook page, including one with his grandmother.

In another, Suha stands out like a sore thumb in a happy high school graduation portrait she hands to IBTimes UK. The students around her are draped in black gowns and caps and smile proudly while gesturing at the camera, but she is crying her eyes out. This was the graduation photo of Mohammed's class, taken a few weeks ago.

"Just weeks ago I was invited to the graduation of Mohammed's class, here was his seat," she said, pointing at an empty chair in the picture: "Everyone was happy but me."

A murderous path to war

The kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers near Hebron in June 2014 sparked a widespread crackdown in the West Bank, with hundreds of raids and arrests of Palestinians. When their bodies were discovered three weeks later, a funeral was held near Jerusalem which was attended by thousands.

The murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir the following day sparked massive riots in Shua'fat, East Jerusalem, as well as in other Arab neighbourhoods and in smaller demonstrations in the West Bank. In Gaza, Hamas began firing rockets into southern Israel and the Israelis responded with air strikes.

On 8 July, the Israelis launched a full-blown military assault on the strip, followed by a ground invasion, which within 50 days had seen as many as 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis killed.

Suha and Hussein have now sat through 16 sessions in the Jerusalem District Court where Ben David and the two teenagers face trial for the kidnap and murder of their son. They attend the hearings despite their scepticism that the murderers will ever truly face justice.

"I don't trust the Israeli court. I don't believe they are going to give us our right. Even if they will sentence them, maybe they will release them after a few years," said Suha.

Ben David, who is a resident of the West Bank settlement of Adam, admitted last year that he was responsible for burning Abu Khdeir alive, but this year refused to testify in court.

His legal team has argued that he is insane and unfit for trial. Hussein said that he had predicted that insanity would be the murderers' defence from the very beginning.

"When my son was found in the forest [...] I told [the] Israeli police that [the accused's lawyers] would claim that they are mentally sick [and] they laughed at me. I predicted what would happen," Hussein said.

The two underage teenagers told the court on 3 June that Ben David had pressured them into carrying out a hate-crime in retaliation to the murder of three Israeli teenagers – Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer – who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank.

Mohammed Abu Khdeir 3
Mahmoud Hamad (right) recalled a joyful Mohammed Abu KhdeirKate Shuttleworth for IBT

A day before Mohammed's murder, Ben David attended the funeral for the three Israelis and later a rally of right-wing Israelis in Jerusalem where protesters shouted "death to Arabs".

Hussein said the family have no clear idea of how long the trial will take, and are angered by double standards in Jerusalem that see Israeli attacks on Palestinians treated far more leniently than Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

"If an Arab killed a Jew and burnt him alive it would only take two sessions in the court and then they would be sentenced. The second day they would have already destroyed his house," Hussein said, referring to Israel's controversial policy of destroying the homes of Palestinians accused of terrorist offences.

The family are eligible for compensation through the court for the murder of their son and could qualify for millions of shekels, but they have refused.

"All the money in the whole world could not bring back my son," said Suha.

They plan to file a case against the Israeli government in the International Criminal Court – which Palestine joined earlier this year – if the sentence is too lenient, and say they have the support of European and Palestinian officials.

"I place the responsibility on the Israeli government for [the murder] of my son. Their incitement at the time encouraged these people," Hussein said.