Clashes intensified between residents and security forces in East Jerusalem after Israeli police discovered the body of a Palestinian teenager early Wednesday, in a forest outside Jerusalem, raising fears that Israeli extremists had exacted revenge for the slaying of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found in the West Bank earlier this week.
Eyewitnesses told the New York Times they last saw Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, 16, waiting for dawn prayers outside a mosque in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina. A van then pulled up and its occupants forced Khdeir inside. A body later identified as Khdeir was found about an hour afterward. Police have not yet confirmed whether Khdeir’s death is connected to the reported kidnapping.
Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem Wednesday, hurling rocks as the officers fought back with tear gas and stun grenades. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemn the kidnapping and murder, “as we condemned those of the three Israelis.”
Netanyahu vowed a swift investigation into “who was behind the loathsome murder” and urged all sides not to take the law into their own hands.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that the United States condemns, “in the strongest possible terms, the heinous murder.” He called for the perpetrators to be swiftly apprehended and urged both sides to refrain from acts of retribution. “People who undertake acts of vengeance will only destabilize an already volatile and emotional situation,” he said.
The abduction comes at a time of soaring tensions in the region, as Israel weighs its responses to the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found on Monday not far from where they vanished while hitchhiking on June 12. Israeli officials held their third emergency cabinet meeting in three days on how to handle the crisis.
Yishai Fraenkel, an uncle to one of the three killed Israeli teenagers, condemned the abduction of the Arab teen and was quoted by Ynetnews as saying, “there is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder.”