Anger over the killings of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank plunged Israel into another round of violence and recriminations Wednesday as the discovery of the charred body of an Arab teenager set off hours of clashes between enraged Palestinians and police.
Police said they were investigating whether the death of the Arab teenager, whose body was found in a forest near a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem following reports that he had been forced into a car, was an act of revenge for the deaths of the Israelis, who also were last seen getting into a car. Their bodies were discovered Monday buried in a field in the West Bank, 18 days after their disappearance.
“We are still checking in all directions,” Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said after a meeting with top police commanders.
Tuesday night, hours after a joint funeral for the three Israelis, crowds of Jewish youths rampaged through downtown Jerusalem, shouting “Death to Arabs” and assaulting Palestinian workers in the area. Some boarded the light rail train running through the city and attacked Arab passengers.
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Witnesses in the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat in East Jerusalem said that Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, had been outside the local mosque about 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday, before the dawn prayer during the holy month of Ramadan.
A car pulled up and its occupants pulled the teenager inside the vehicle and sped away as local youths gave chase, residents said.
About an hour and a half later, the youth’s burned body was found in the Jerusalem Forest, a natural area bordered by Jewish neighborhoods.
Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said that police received an initial report that Abu Khdeir had been forcibly bundled into a car, followed by a later phone call from the teenager’s parents, reporting him missing.
News of the death set off street clashes in Shuafat between groups of youths who hurled stones at police, set up burning barricades and torched a station of the Israeli-run light rail line. Riot officers responded with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
Palestinians accused Israeli settlers of carrying out the slaying.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who had condemned the abduction of the three Israeli teens in the West Bank, demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issue a similar condemnation of the slaying of Abu Khdeir.
“The president demands that Israel take real steps to end the settler attacks and chaos caused by the Israeli government’s policy on the ground,” said a statement carried by WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said Israel bore responsibility for the slaying, and he demanded that the Israeli authorities bring the killers to justice.
Dimitri Diliani, a senior official of Abbas’ Fatah movement from East Jerusalem, accused the Israeli government of providing cover for violence by Jewish extremists and called for tough action by Netanyahu.
“Will Netanyahu block off the settlements and will his forces raid the settlements and arrest 600 settlers?” Diliani asked, alluding to a crackdown by Israeli forces in Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank following the June 12 abduction of the three Israeli teens.
Netanyahu stopped short of condemning the killing of Abu Khdeir but issued a statement saying that he had ordered a speedy investigation to discover “who is behind the despicable murder, and the background of the deed.”
“The prime minister calls on all parties not to take the law into their own hands _ Israel is a law-abiding state and it is incumbent on everyone to obey the law,” the statement said.
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, condemned the killing as a “shocking and barbaric murder,” and urged restraint. “Our aim is to return to normal as fast as possible,” he said.