The face of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir looks out from the front pages of two of the three Hebrew dailies on Thursday after his gruesome murder on Wednesday ignited riots in Jerusalem.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page headline simply states, “The murder and the anger” and asks on its front page if his killing was “revenge for the murder of the three Israeli teenagers or a criminal act?” While the paper isn’t sure of the motive, it describes how Abu Khdeir was forced into a car while on his way to the mosque for Ramadan prayers, and then murdered and his burnt body dumped in a Jerusalem forest.
The paper’s Ben-Dror Yemini carries on the paper’s line that the facts aren’t all in about the murder, but what is clear is that “this is the best possible thing that could happen for Hamas.”
On Haaretz’s front page the paper states that an eyewitness says he saw Abu Khdeir being forced into a car by Jews. His family denied any idea that the murder was in any way related to an honor killing or criminal matter. A cousin of the family said, “Our family is not involved in any disputes and he was a good boy.”
Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes that the police aren’t dismissing other possible motives. Part of the reason for the caution is due to the lack of information in the case, but also because the police’s credibility has taken a hit since they mishandled Gil-ad Shaar’s emergency call when he was kidnapped. While the police are being cautious, Harel writes that for the Palestinians, the timing of the murder is evidence enough that it is a revenge killing.
Israel Hayom is the only paper that doesn’t have a picture of Abu Khdeir on its front page (and actually misreports his age as 17 instead of 16), but says that residents of Abu Khdeir’s Shuafat neighborhood are sure it’s nationalistically motivated. The paper reports that residents called police the day before to report an attempted kidnapping of a 9-year-old boy.
Dan Margalit comes out strongly against the extremists on both sides. Margalit writes that there is an account to settle with the two killers of Naftali, Gil-ad, and Eyal, but that it is up to the security services to deal with, not the wild gangs.
Margalit offers his prescription to calm everything down. “What is needed is to declare a state of emergency and mobilize the investigative forces – even ‘special measures’ — against Palestinians and Jews who endanger all residents between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and the Shin Bet’s Jewish division must capture a murderer regardless of religion, race, gender, or crazy state of mind.”
The fury surrounding the deaths of the three kidnapped teens has gripped soldiers as well as the public. Facebook groups have popped up over the past few days demanding revenge for the teens’ deaths and Haaretz reports that the IDF is coming down hard on any soldier who participates in these groups. One group calling itself “The people of Israel demand revenge” encourages soldiers to post pictures of themselves with signs urging retribution. The IDF said if soldiers are involved in “sending racist photographs and calling for the harming the innocent, then this does not accord what is expected of IDF soldiers and every case made known to commanders will be dealt with the utmost severity.”
While the IDF has its hands full with the security situation and disobedient soldiers, it now has another headache because of a party. Yedioth reports that the IDF base that houses the elite dog unit held a bat mitzvah party for an American-Jewish billionaire and his two daughters. The dog unit showed off its training exercises for the billionaire, who has donated to the IDF in the past. So why the outrage? Because the party occurred at the same time as the funerals of Eyal, Naftali, and Gil-ad. The IDF called the decision to host the event “flawed.”
As if that weren’t enough, the IDF has actual security issues to deal with, not the least of which is the continuing escalation in Gaza. Israel Hayom reports that 18 rockets were fired at Israel on Wednesday, including 2 Grad rockets that were intercepted by Iron Dome. Despite this, Hamas’s chief Khaled Mashal said, “Hamas is not interested in an escalation of the security situation in Gaza. We are committed to the truce agreement with Israel and will act accordingly.” The paper also reports that Mashal asked Turkey to intervene and help avert a large-scale Israeli attack in Gaza.
Despite the dramatic events of Wednesday, the papers still give lots of space to the incident that sparked this latest round of violence: the abduction and murder of the three teenagers. Yedioth reports on the full audio of Gil-ad Shaar’s emergency call where he reported he was being kidnapped, in which the killers start singing after they kill the three boys. “We got three,” one of them says between shouts of joy.
Israel Hayom carries an interview with the Bat-Galim and Ophir Shaar, the parents of Gil-ad. “We always hoped that Gil-ad was alive,” they told the paper. They said that they heard the tape, but officials told them that the shots were probably to scare the kids, not to kill them. But they point out that they’re not angry at the officials. “No one led us astray,” Bat-Galim said. The piece ends with Bat-Galim saying, “I don’t have a son now, but all of the soldiers who were looking for the boys are like my child. They found our boys. Though not as we wanted to see them, but they brought them to be buried in Israel.”