The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday blamed Israel for the killing of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir after he was snatched from his East Jerusalem neighborhood.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police to conduct an investigation as quickly as possible to find out who is behind the “reprehensible murder” of the teenager and called both Jews and Arabs not to take the law into their own hands.
“Israel is a nation of laws and everyone must act according to the law,” he said in a statement after a meeting with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
Netanyahu’s statement came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas challenged him to “condemn the kidnapping and murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir as we condemned the kidnapping of the three Israelis” who were found dead earlier this week.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that the PA holds Israel responsible for the death and called on it to “find the killers and hold them accountable,” according to the Palestinian official news agency Wafa.
Hamas threatened that “the occupation will pay the price for its crimes” — in a reference to the Jewish state — and called the murder as a “kidnapping and execution.”
Police dispatched extra units to East Jerusalem throughout the day as enraged Arabs rioted over the killing of Abu Khdeir, whose charred body was found in the Jerusalem Forest an hour after he went missing.
On Monday the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16 — were discovered in a shallow grave in the West Bank, 18 days after their June 12 abduction.
Even as police said the motive for Abu Khdeir’s killing had yet to be established, Naftali Fraenkel’s uncle joined a chorus of Israeli condemnations.
“If an Arab teen was indeed murdered for nationalist reasons, this is a horrific and shocking act,” Yishai Fraenkel said. “There is no difference when it comes to blood. Murder is murder; there is no justification, forgiveness or atonement for any murder.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the killing, although he too was careful not to speculate as to the identity and motive of the killers.
“This is a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn. This is not our way and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice. I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”
He was echoed by Knesset members from left- and right-wing parties.
“The murder of the teenager and burning of his body is a shocking and heinous act,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said. “I call on the police to spare no effort to find the killers as fast as possible and bring them to justice.”
“If this is indeed an act of vengeance, this is not just the brutal murder of an innocent boy but an act of terror in every meaning of the word and a threat to the very foundations of Israel as a lawful and democratic state,” Labor Party MK Shelly Yachimovich said. “This is a barbaric challenge to the sovereignty of the state, to the army, the police, the courts and the government, and it is urgent that we find the killers and bring them to justice.”
Meretz party chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-on echoed their sentiments and went on to lay the blame for any Jewish revenge killings at the feet of right-wing ministers in Netanyahu’s government and lax enforcement against other ultra-nationalist crime.
“Hundreds of right-wing activists, Kahanists and nationalists, who demonstrated in Jerusalem calling for revenge and attacks on Arabs, received a boost from the comments of extreme right-wing ministers in the cabinet that sought revenge, talked revenge and aggravated the situation,” Gal-On said.
“The pogroms and violence against the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are the result of years of laxness by law enforcement against the nationalistic violence and racism against Arabs,” she added.
MK Dov Khenin of the far-left Hadash party lamented that the Israeli leadership had not put out a clear message against violence in the wake of the murders of the Israeli teens.
“There is a dangerous wave of hatred and violence washing over the country,” he said. “There are those who are exploiting the shock and harsh atmosphere following the murder of the teens to incite against Arabs everywhere. It’s a shame that we didn’t hear yesterday clear and firm calls from state and political leaders against violence.”
“At this moment, the leadership will be tested in its ability to avoid falling into the abyss and stop whoever is trying to push us in,” he added.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.