In a violent and rapid turn of events, riots that broke out in East Jerusalem following the discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager quickly spread throughout the country.
Three suspects who confessed to the July 2 murder of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir are being held by Israeli authorities in what is now considered a revenge killing for last month’s kidnapping and murder of three young Israeli Jews.
Abu Khdeir, a resident of Shuafat in East Jerusalem, was pulled into a car and murdered hours after the funerals of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, who were killed shortly after being kidnapped at a hitchhiking spot in Gush Etzion June 12 and whose bodies were discovered 18 days later near Hebron.
The young Palestinian’s battered body was found in the woods outside Jerusalem. The autopsy showed he had been burned alive.
Strong condemnations of the murder came from Israeli and American Jewish leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres called the boy’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, to offer condolences.
In a particularly moving act, Yishai Frenkel — the uncle of Naftali Frenkel — also called Hussein Abu Khudeir. “We expressed our deep empathy with their sorrow, from one bereaved family to another bereaved family,” Frenkel said.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said a new law that bars parole for convicted terrorists will apply in this case. But a leading rabbi connected to the right wing, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, said the murderers “should be sentenced to death.”
Jewish organizations in the United States also widely condemned the murder while commending Israeli police for arresting suspects so quickly.
The Anti-Defamation League said it was “outraged and horrified,” while director Abraham Foxman stated that “only a full investigation and vigorous criminal prosecution will ensure justice for Mohammed Abu Khdeir, while sending a message to anyone else who might consider such an act that extremism, vigilantism and revenge killings will not be tolerated in Israeli society and are anathema to Jewish values.”
B’nai B’rith International condemned the murder “in the strongest possible terms” and said, “There is no justification for this outrageous, despicable disregard for human life from any quarter.”
“That Israelis are believed to be involved in this murder is despicable and shameful,” said David Harris, American Jewish Congress executive director. “By taking the life of a young Palestinian as an apparent act of revenge, they have desecrated God’s name and, at the same time, done nothing to ease the immense suffering of all those who mourn the tragic murder of the three Israeli teenagers.
In a statement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Chairman Robert G. Sugarman and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein called the attack “heinous,” saying it was committed by “self-styled vigilantes.”
“We condemn this attack, as we did the murder of the three Israeli youths by Arab terrorists … and we extend our sincere condolences to the Khdeir family. We urge Israeli Arab and Palestinian leaders to work with Israeli officials to stop the violence that has been escalating over recent days,” the statement said.
“We also urge that measures be implemented to stop all incitement to violence whatever and whoever the source. There has been much suffering this week and we pray that it will come to a quick end.” n
The Associated Press contributed to this report.