The body of an Israeli teen that had been snatched by terrorists from a hospital in the West Bank was returned to Israel early Thursday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said, averting a potentially major crisis.
“After efforts by the security establishment in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, the body of Tiran Fero, the young Israeli killed in a car accident in Jenin, is now being transferred to his family in Israel,” the IDF said in a statement at around 5 a.m.
Fero, who was meant to celebrate his 18th birthday on Thursday, was from the Druze-majority town of Daliyat al-Karmel. He was critically injured in a car crash in Jenin and taken to a hospital in the Palestinian city on Tuesday due to his severe condition.
His family claimed that Palestinian gunmen detached him from life support and grabbed him from the hospital, while the military and a senior defense source said that he was already dead when he was taken.
His body was returned to his family in Israel after being held by terrorists in the West Bank for around 30 hours. The body was transferred over at the Salem crossing near Jenin.
Fero’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, with the Daliyat al-Karmel mayor declaring a day of mourning in the town.
“I can’t describe it,” Hussam, Fero’s father, told Channel 13 news. “My heart is broken. I lost a son today, it’s his birthday today. Instead of having a birthday with his family, I am preparing a funeral, so you can imagine what pain I am going through.”
Fero’s uncle said: “The whole family is very grateful to everyone that contributed to the process of resolving this crisis and bringing back Tiran’s body so that we can say goodbye to him in a dignified way.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent his “heartfelt condolences” to the family following the return of Fero’s body.
“The return of the body to the family is the least we could do to bring comfort to them. I thank everyone who worked in recent days to resolve this sad matter,” he said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted his thanks to the Palestinian Authority for their help in returning the body: “This is a basic humanitarian step following a humiliating and inhumane action.”
“I want to thank security forces and all bodies, leaders, and representatives that worked with determination for his return. My sincerest condolences to the family who showed greatness and leadership during these difficult moments,” he wrote.
Various Israeli media reports had suggested that intensive negotiations were underway Wednesday evening to secure the release of Fero’s body, involving those in the highest echelons of government and the security establishment in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel had sought a diplomatic solution to the crisis but was also preparing for a military operation to retrieve the body, Channel 13 reported.
Lapid said Wednesday that “if Tiran’s body is not returned, the kidnappers will pay a heavy price.”
Unnamed security officials had said that the suspects had been demanding the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel or the bodies of deceased Palestinian terrorists being held by Israel in exchange for Fero, who was a senior in high school.
The Kan public broadcaster cited Palestinian officials as saying that there had been a possible breakthrough in the talks to return Fero’s body on Wednesday night, but that Israeli officials had rejected any demand for a prisoner exchange deal.
But Israel ended up not giving anything in return for the body, a senior defense source told reporters Thursday morning, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We held no negotiations with those who were holding the body. We gave nothing in return,” the source said. “We clarified that this body was going back to the family. The Palestinian Authority put pressure to end the saga quickly because it was embarrassed, and in Jenin, the kidnappers lost support after the public understood it would be paying a heavy financial price.”
“Also, according to the information we received, Tiran died about an hour before the kidnapping and not after it,” the source said, responding to the claims made by his family.
The kidnapping of Fero infuriated the Druze community in Israel. On Wednesday, thousands demonstrated in Fero’s hometown Daliyat al-Karmel and at a protest march blocking off a major highway.
More than one member of the community cited by the Walla news site said that if Fero’s body was not returned quickly, they may have attempted to enter Jenin and retrieve him themselves.
Channel 12 posted a video of five masked men holding rifles threatening to go into Jenin to retrieve the body if it was not returned by Thursday morning.
דלית אל כרמל???? pic.twitter.com/v4yyKf3whB
— Real News IL (@RealNewsIL) November 23, 2022
Several Palestinian sources had indicated that Tiran’s body was being held in the Jenin Refugee Camp. Palestinians had set up barricades around the city in anticipation of an IDF raid.
On Wednesday morning, COGAT, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians, announced that the Jalamah and Salem checkpoints in the northern West Bank would be shuttered. The crossings were reopened on Thursday morning.
The Jenin area has been seen as a major hotspot for terror in recent months and the Palestinian Authority is believed to be losing control of the region.
Palestinian gunmen, mostly in the northern West Bank, have repeatedly targeted troops conducting arrest raids, as well as military posts, soldiers operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.
The incident in Jenin came as the military pressed on with a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on Jenin and Nablus, to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 30 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year.
The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids but has also around 150 Palestinians dead, many of them — though not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
Further stoking tensions, terrorists set off two bombs in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning, killing an Israeli teenager and wounding over 20 others.
The bombings in Jerusalem have also put the country on edge. Police have bolstered forces in Jerusalem and other parts of the country amid a manhunt for the terrorists who planted the explosives at two bus stops in the capital.
A 16-year-old yeshiva student, Aryeh Schupak, was killed and 22 people were hurt in the two attacks, including one listed as critical and another three in serious-moderate condition, according to medical officials.