JERUSALEM – The Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of abducting and killing an Arab teenager and burning his body Wednesday, sparking hours of clashes in east Jerusalem and drawing charges that the youth was murdered to avenge the killings of three kidnapped Israeli teens.
Seeking to calm the explosive situation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged a swift inquiry into the reprehensible murder and called on people to respect the rule of law.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was clear that extremist Jewish settlers were responsible and called on Israel to bring the killers to justice.
The settlers have killed and burned a little boy. They are well known, Abbas said, accusing Israel of tolerating settler violence toward Palestinians. I demand that the Israeli government hold the killers accountable.
The death added to the already heightened tensions caused by the killings of the three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were discovered Monday just over two weeks after they disappeared in the West Bank.
Tens of thousands of people attended a funeral Tuesday in which the teens were laid to rest side-by-side. As the burial took place, hundreds of young, right-wing Israelis marched through downtown Jerusalem screaming for revenge.
Hours later, relatives of Mohammed Abu Khdeir said the 17-year-old was forced into a car in a neighborhood of east Jerusalem that quickly sped off. A burned body believed to be his was found shortly afterward in a Jerusalem forest.
As news of the youth’s disappearance spread, hundreds of Palestinians in east Jerusalem took to the streets, torching light-rail train stations and hurling stones at Israeli police, who responded with stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to virtually all of the city’s Palestinian population, in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed the area. The Palestinians seek the area as the capital of a future state, and tensions in the volatile eastern sector often boil over into violence.
The clashes emptied streets in east Jerusalem’s normally bustling Beit Hanina neighborhood. Masked Palestinians hiding in alleyways and a neighborhood mosque hurled rocks toward Israeli forces, who occasionally responded with stun grenades.
Gaza militants fired 20 rockets and mortars on Israel throughout the day, the army said. The army said it carried out one airstrike on a mortar-launching site in Gaza, scoring a direct hit.