A suspect arrested in connection with the slaying of Jerusalem teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir last Wednesday reportedly confessed to the crime after being arrested Sunday, implicating a number of other suspects as well.
The suspect, described by police as a Jewish extremist, admitted to kidnapping Abu Khdeir, 16, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat and killing him, several Israeli news sites reported Sunday night.
According to the Walla news site, other suspects among the six arrested also confessed to the crime under Shin Bet security service interrogation.
A Petah Tikva court ruled Sunday afternoon that five of the suspects will be held for an additional eight days, while the final suspect will be held for another five days.
Hussein Abu Khdeir, the dead teenager’s father, said news of the arrests brought no satisfaction. “Nobody is going to bring back my boy,” he said Sunday. “My son was burned to death.” He also charged that the anti-Arab atmosphere in Israel after the killings last month of the three Israeli teenagers, allegedly by Hamas terrorists, constituted a “green light” for attacks on Arabs.
He also compared his son to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, AP reported. “This crime is like how the Germans burned the Jews. And today, the Jews are burning us. They are now like the Nazis, the new Nazis.”
Police had initially requested the suspects’ detention be extended for 15 days.
The accused are barred from meeting with a lawyer.
One of the detainees has been cooperating with the police investigation and is incriminating his accomplices in the crime, according to a Channel 2 report.
The six are not part of a formal extremist group, as had been previously reported, but rather a group of radical youths who decided to take the law into their own hands, the news station reported.
The six were arrested early Sunday morning in connection with the death of Abu Khdeir, 16.
Palestinian sources said Saturday that Abu Khdeir was burned alive in the Jerusalem Forest before his body was found Wednesday. Israeli investigators believe he was beaten on the head after being abducted and then burned alive, Channel 2 reported on Sunday night.
Police believe the Jewish extremists committed the crime in retaliation for the killing of Israeli teenagers Gil-ad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, whose bodies were found last Monday.
A number of the suspects are also believed to have unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap a 9-year-old Palestinian boy — Musa Zalum — the night before Abu Khdeir was abducted.
The mother of the boy, Dina, said she and others fought off the attackers, who had grabbed the boy the neck, and who she described as Hebrew-speaking Jews. The boy on Sunday showed journalists bloody wounds on his neck.
Police arrived at the scene, but claimed they told the family they would have to file a formal report, and never did. The police further maintain that the boy’s father did not say the culprits were Jews until Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed. The Palestinian family insisted that they had conveyed the information, but police failed to act on it appropriately.
An unnamed official said police had located a car used by the suspects in the Abu Khdeir killing.
During the investigation, police learned of the attempted kidnapping the previous day in the same East Jerusalem neighborhood and concluded the incidents were linked. The Zalums said a Honda or Hyundai were used in the attempted kidnapping.
The official described the six suspects as young males, including several minors, and said they came from Jerusalem, the nearby city of Beit Shemesh and Adam, a West Bank settlement near Jerusalem. Three of the six were said to be suspected of having attempted the previous day’s kidnapping of Musa Zalum.
Some of the suspects were known to police for previous criminal activity, Channel 2 reported. They were not part of an organized underground, and were not being monitored by the Shin Bet, the TV report said.
The girlfriend of one of the suspects told the Walla news website that her boyfriend is a college student and works for his father’s business. The suspects from “a very respected family,” she said. “They are an ultra-Orthodox home, but he is Modern Orthodox,” she said. She claimed the detainee never spoke about revenge, and said: “I will never believe he did something like this. He wouldn’t risk his life for something like this — I know him.”
Neighbors of a different suspect told the website they were appalled at the arrest, and could not believe the suspect in question could be involved in the murder. The parents have barricaded themselves in their home and have not spoken to anyone since their son was taken away, one neighbor said.
The suspect comes from a “civilized” family, “with the worldview of Shas,” he maintained, in reference to the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic political party.
A gag order on some details was still in place as on Sunday evening. A press conference on the arrests scheduled for 5 p.m. was canceled at the last moment.
Video images showing the faces of two of the suspected kidnappers and murderers of Abu Khdeir were uploaded to YouTube earlier Sunday.
The footage came from a security camera that had been stationed on a building owned by Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein, and was recorded on a mobile phone during a police investigation.
In the video, two young men are seen conversing with a third person, presumably Abu Khdeir, who is not visible in the frame. According to police, Abu Khdeir was forced into a vehicle moments later.
After the kidnapping, several bystanders who witnessed the incident tried to chase the car before returning to Shuafat to notify Abu Khdeir’s parents.
At 4:05 a.m, Abu Khdeir’s father called police. The teenager’s body was located within an hour, after his cellphone was tracked by police.
Palestinians allege that Abu Khdeir was killed by Jewish extremists to avenge the killings of the three Israeli teenagers, who were abducted in the West Bank on June 12. Their bodies were found last week, and Abu Khdeir was killed just hours after their funeral.
Police initially said they were investigating various avenues in the teen’s death, including criminal or personal motives, while Israeli social media abounded with rumors that he had been killed because he was gay or as part of an ongoing family feud.
On Saturday, the Palestinian Authority attorney-general, Dr. Muhammed Abed al-Ghani al-Aweiwi, said that Abu Khdeir was burned alive, according to the preliminary findings of the autopsy.
Aweiwi told Palestinian news agency Ma’an that Abu Khdeir had sustained severe burns across 90 percent of his body, including his head, where he was also beaten.
He said flammable material was found in Abu Khdeir’s lungs and breathing passages, indicating he was still alive when he was set on fire. Aweiwi added that additional lab tests were needed and that the final autopsy report would be issued only after those tests were completed.
The killing has sparked several days of rioting in Jerusalem and northern Israel.