Wednesday, July 2, 2014 4:49 pm
JERUSALEM – A Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and killed Wednesday in an apparent act of revenge for the murder by militants of three Israeli youths, triggering violent clashes in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders denounced the killing, holding Israel responsible and demanding the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu act to prevent revenge attacks.
“I demand the Israeli government punish the killers if it wants peace between the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples,” said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Netanyahu also condemned the “despicable murder” and ordered investigators to work “as quickly as possible” to track down the perpetrators, while urging both sides “not to take the law into their own hands”.
Eyewitnesses told AFP 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder was seen being forced into a car by three Israelis in east Jerusalem.
And police confirmed a body had been found in a forest in Givat Shaul in west Jerusalem, although they refused to link the two incidents.
However, DNA tests proved the body was that of the missing teenager, his father said.
“The body belongs to my son,” Hussein Abu Khder told AFP, saying his identity had been confirmed through tests but the cause of death was not immediately clear.
– Copycat kidnapping? –
The attack is widely believed to have been carried out in revenge for the kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian militants, with Israeli police raising the alert to the second highest level across the country.
Shortly after dawn, crowds of angry Palestinians began gathering outside the teenager’s home in Shuafat, with violent clashes erupting at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) and showing no sign of easing some eight hours later.
Clouds of black smoke rose into the sky as hundreds of masked Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli police in riot gear, who responded by firing rubber bullets, tear gas and sound bombs.
The Red Crescent said at least 65 people had been hurt in the clashes, three by live bullets. At least 35 people were injured by rubber bullets, including six journalists.
The normally-bustling main road through Shuafat was littered with stones and the light rail service which passes through the neighbourhood was suspended. Clashes were also reported in the neighbourhood of Ras al-Amud near the Mount of Olives.
As concerns about further attacks grew, Israel police raised the alert to the second highest level.
– ‘Barbaric act’ –
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat denounced the murder as a “horrible and barbaric act” and called for all sides “to exercise restraint”.
Tensions have soared across the region since June 12 when three Israeli teenagers disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Their bodies were found on Monday, with Israel blaming Hamas and vowing to hit it hard.
Calls for revenge followed, with more than 200 Israelis rampaging through Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, dragging people out of cars and chanting “Death to Arabs,” police and witnesses said.
As the clashes raged in Shuafat, where the streets were littered with burning dumpsters and makeshift barricades, the only place of relative calm was the family home.
Wearing a blue headscarf, 40-year-old Suha Abu Khder, mother of the missing teen, sat in stunned silence, sometimes breaking down in tears in a room filled with relatives and friends.
Ansam Abu Khder, one of the teenager’s cousins, said witnesses had written down the car’s licence plate number and police were examining CCTV footage.
“We knew about Mohammed’s kidnapping by three Israelis just before the dawn prayers. A witness saw them,” he told AFP.
In a related development, police also spoke to another Shuafat family who had on Monday reported an attempt to snatch one of their children, the father told agency reporter.
Family of 16-year-old Naftali Frenkel, one of the three murdered Israeli teenagers, issued a statement condemning the incident as a “horrendous act”.
“If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives then this is a horrible and horrendous act,” it said.
“There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder.”
But Hamas, accused by Israel of the triple killing, vowed Israel’s government would pay for the Palestinian teen’s death.
“We send our message to the Zionist entity and its leaders, which hold direct responsibility (for the murder), that our people will not let this crime pass,” he said.
“You will pay the price for these crimes.”
Also on Wednesday, suspected Jewish extremists set fire to the ground floor of a house in the West Bank village of Aqraba near Nablus, writing “Revenge of the Jews” in Hebrew on the wall, police said.