The body of an Arab teenager was found in the Jerusalem Forest Wednesday morning and police suspect he may have been kidnapped from East Jerusalem overnight and killed in a revenge attack for the killing of three Israeli teens.
Police said they were also investigating several possible motives in the teen’s killing. Residents said the youth, identified as Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, 16, was loaded into a car by “three settlers.”
Dozens of Arabs massed on the light rail tracks in the neighborhood of Shuafat and clashed with Israeli security forces early Wednesday when reports of the boy’s death broke.
The body, which was charred and bore signs of violence, was found an hour after police were informed of a youth from Shuafat being forcefully loaded into a car.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the “despicable murder” of the Palestinian teenager and “asked the investigating authorities to work as quickly as possible” to find out who was behind it and what their motivation was, a statement from his office said. The prime minister urged all sides not to take the law into their own hands, the statement said.
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Reuters that police had received word that the youth had been “pulled into a vehicle and possibly kidnapped” and had set up roadblocks in an attempt to intercept the vehicle.
Police later “discovered a body in the Jerusalem forest and were looking to see if there was a connection between the missing youth and the body that was found,” Rosenfeld was quoted as saying.
Because of its condition, the body was not immediately identified.
Jerusalem police chief Yossi Parienti called on the public to “exercise restraint” and not jump to conclusions regarding the motive for killing, saying investigators had yet to determine whether it was “nationalistic or criminal.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned what he called “the murder” as a “a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn.”
“This is not our way,” he continued, “and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice. I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”
The incident came two days after three Israeli teens who had been missing for over two weeks were found slain and buried in the West Bank.
A cousin of the missing East Jerusalem boy said that there had been previous attempts to grab Arabs youths from the area.
“It started yesterday,” the man told Army Radio Wednesday. “They tried to abduct a seven-year-old boy from his mother in the street. They were riding in a black car, a Honda Civic, and tried to grab her son.”
“This morning, they abducted a kid, my 15-year-old cousin, from near his house,” he continued. “Two cars from the village chased [the kidnappers] but couldn’t reach them in time.”
He alleged that the men in the car who had abducted his cousin were the same men who tried to snatch the seven-year-old the day before.
On Tuesday evening, police in Jerusalem arrested at least 47 ultra-nationalist Jewish demonstrators who chanted anti-Arab slogans and decried the lack of a government response to the killing of the three Israeli teens.
The demonstrators called out “Death to the Arabs” and “No Arabs, no terror attacks.” Many wore stickers and shirts expressing support for the slain ultra-nationalist rabbi Meir Kahane.
Police said one man was arrested after going into a McDonald’s with a mask and attempting to attack an Arab. Three more people were arrested nearby after attacking Arabs.
At the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, a group of some 40 teens gathered around a woman sitting outside a restaurant who had told them to leave, and poured water on her, according to a bystander.
“One of the boys spat at her, and then at me,” Sara Miriam Liben, who was sitting nearby, recounted. One of the teens smashed a glass on a restaurant table.
There were some teenage girls in the group, as well as two mothers walking behind the unruly youths. One of the women told bystanders she was proud of the violent group.
Mob on Jaffa Road, Jerusalem chanting "death to the Arabs." Man tells me, "after sundown we will attack them." pic.twitter.com/ehx7E3BCyS
— benwedeman (@bencnn) July 1, 2014
The demonstrators’ march, which began at the Cords Bridge at the entrance to the city and continued along Jaffa Road to the Machane Yehuda market and Zion Square, blocked traffic and briefly brought the city’s light rail to a halt.
Earlier Tuesday, the three Israeli teens — Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach — were laid to rest side by side in Modi’in.
AFP contributed to this report.