The body of a Palestinian teen was found in East Jerusalem Wednesday morning after he was reportedly kidnapped and killed in retaliation for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens. The discovery of the body of 17-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir sparked renewed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, two days after the bodies of the Israeli teens were discovered north of the West Bank city of Hebron.
Israeli police received a report that a Palestinian was seen being forced into a car in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, late Tuesday night. Police found the body of Khdeir not long after. His body appeared to have been badly burned.
Palestinians claimed that Israeli settlers were responsible for the killing. A spokesman for the Israeli police, Micky Rosenfeld, said that they were still investigating the motives for the killing, and added that there was not yet enough evidence to link the crime directly to recent events.
“There are attempts to make a connection between the two incidents and we are still checking all directions,” the Israeli minister of internal security, Yitzhak Aharonovich, said today on state radio. “There are many possibilities, criminal and nationalistic, and everything is being examined in a responsible manner.”
There are other reports that Khdeir was killed by his family for being gay in a so-called “honor killing,” but his family has vehemently denied these claims.
“He was kidnapped and killed by the settlers, and the police know that very well,” said Mahmoud Abu Khdeir, a cousin of the teen and an imam. “They are trying to say that it is an honor killing, and this is categorically not true.”
Right-wing Israeli demonstrators chanting "death to Arabs" Tuesday night.
An Israeli military source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Israel suspected the teen had been killed in retribution for the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens, who were found on Monday.
Large right-wing Israeli demonstrations took place yesterday in Jerusalem during the funeral of the three Israeli teens, in which hundreds of Israelis marched and chanted “death to Arabs” as they called for revenge.
Today, news of the killed Palestinian sparked massive unrest among both Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Israel.
Palestinian riots quickly broke out in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, where hundreds of Palestinians gathered near Khdeir’s family home. Demonstrators threw stones and Molotov cocktails on the main road linking the neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
Israeli security forces responded, reportedly with live fire, to quell the protesters. Dozens of Palestinians were injured.
The Israeli military also entered the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, firing rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinian youth who threw stones at the Israeli soldiers, according to local Palestinian media. The soldiers reportedly prevented the Palestinians from praying inside the mosque.
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, issued an unusually strong condemnation of the killing of Khdeir in a series of tweets today. "Perpetrators must be brought to justice. US paying close attention to investigation" she said on her personal Twitter account. "We call on all parties to avoid an atmosphere of revenge and retribution."
US Secretary of State John Kerry added his own condemnation in a statement today. "There are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people," he said. "At this tense and dangerous moment all parties must do everything to protect the innocent."
Khdeir's body is still in Israeli custody but is expected to be released soon for his funeral tomorrow.
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Photos by Oren Ziv, Tali Mayer and Yotam Ronen