The United Nations Security Council “condemned in the strongest terms” the apparent revenge murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian 16-year-old whose July 2 death sparked riots in East Jerusalem.
The 15 members of the Security Council “extended their condolences and sympathies to the family of the victim of this heinous act and to the Palestinian people.” They also underlined “the need to bring the perpetrators of this deplorable act to justice,” and called for “immediate calm” in the region.
According to the testimony of local residents, Abu Khdeir was seen being forced into a car by three Israelis in East Jerusalem late Tuesday. Israeli police later confirmed the body, which was partly burned, was found in a forest in West Jerusalem. Police have become increasingly convinced that Abu Khdeir was murdered Wednesday morning as revenge for the killing of three kidnapped Israeli teens, officials said Wednesday, but added that the investigation is still ongoing and that a criminal or other motive could not yet be ruled out.
The Security’s Council’s statement was virtually identical to the one issued after Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel were found dead near Hebron on Monday after they were murdered by a Hebron-based Hamas terrorist cell, also condemning the act “in the strongest terms” and calling it “heinous.”
The Palestinian teen’s death Wednesday triggered swift and strongly-worded statements from world leaders, who deplored his killing and called on all sides to exercise restraint.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the murder a “despicable act” and called for the perpetrators to be promptly brought to justice.
“The Secretary General reiterates his call on all parties to ensure that tensions do not escalate further, leading to more loss of life,” his spokesperson stated.
The United States government on Wednesday also condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Abu Khdeir’s killing, with Secretary of State John Kerry calling it “despicable and senseless” in a statement. “It is sickening to think of an innocent 17-year-old boy snatched off the streets and his life stolen from him and his family,” Kerry said. He also said that people “who undertake acts of vengeance only destabilize an already explosive and emotional situation,” calling on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to act with restraint and prevent further violence.
An Israeli official told The Times of Israel that Kerry’s remarks seemed premature, considering the wait-and-see approach the US government had initially displayed last month regarding the abduction and killing of the three Israeli teens.
“How does he [Kerry] know it is an act of vengeance? If it is, obviously the strong condemnation is more than justified. But, apparently, waiting for information, waiting for evidence from intelligence or police investigation, is only required when the victim is Israeli,” said the official.
The White House also “condemns in the strongest possible terms” Abu Khdeir’s death, press secretary Josh Earnest said, using terms similar to those in the State Department statement. “We hope to swiftly see the guilty parties brought to justice,” he told reporters. “We call on the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent an atmosphere of revenge and retribution. People who undertake acts of vengeance will only destabilize an already volatile and emotional situation.”
The European Union also condemned “in the strongest terms” Abu Khdeir’s killing, expressing concern about the risk for further escalation and calling for restraint.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a swift probe into the killing Wednesday.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Times of Israel that officials were investigating two possible motives: that Abu Khdeir was killed in a family honor killing, or that it was a nationalistically motivated slaying. According to officials familiar with the investigation, investigators increasingly view the killing as a revenge attack perpetrated by Jewish terrorists.
The killing set off violent riots in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, where protesters clashed with police and burned down a light rail stop.
Tensions have soared since June 12 when three Israeli teenagers were seized while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Their bodies were found on Monday afternoon near Hebron, with Israel blaming Hamas and vowing to hit it hard. Two Hamas members, Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha, who disappeared on June 12, have been named by Israel as the prime suspects and are still at large.
Lazar Berman and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.