OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel arrested six Jewish suspects Sunday in the grisly slaying of a Palestinian teenager who was abducted and burned alive last week, setting off a wave of violent protests in Arab parts of the country.
Israeli leaders appealed for calm amid signs the death was revenge for the killings of three Israeli teens.
“We will not allow extremists, it doesn’t matter from which side, to inflame the region and cause bloodshed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. “Murder is murder, incitement is incitement, and we will respond aggressively to both.” He promised to prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.
The three Israeli teens – one of them a U.S. citizen – were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank last month. Last week, their bodies were found in a West Bank field in a crime Israel blamed on Hamas.
Hours after the youths were buried, Mohammad Abu Khudair, a 16-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem, was abducted near his home. His charred remains were found shortly afterward in a Jerusalem forest and preliminary autopsy results found he was still alive when he was set on fire.
Palestinians immediately accused Israeli extremists of killing the youth in revenge. Israeli authorities said Sunday the killers had acted out of “nationalistic” motives. The suspects remained in custody and were being interrogated, authorities said.
An Israeli official said there were six suspects and described them as young males, including several minors, all of whom lived in the Jerusalem area.
He added that police had located a car used by the suspects. During the investigation, he said, police learned of an attempted kidnapping the previous day of a child in the same neighborhood and concluded the cases were linked. Israeli TV showed pictures of the 9-year-old boy with red marks around his neck.
Abu Khudair’s family said the arrests brought them little joy and that they had little faith in the Israeli justice system. “I don’t have any peace in my heart, even if they captured who they say killed my son,” said his mother, Suha. “They’re only going to ask them questions and then release them. What’s the point?”
She added: “They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do it to our children.”
The situation in East Jerusalem appeared to be calming down Sunday, as businesses and markets reopened, and roads that had been cordoned off were reopened to traffic.
After the Israeli teenagers were found dead, several hundred Jewish extremists had marched through downtown Jerusalem calling for “death to Arabs.” Social media sites were also flooded with calls for vengeance.
A 15-year-old Palestinian-American cousin of Abu Khudair was also injured in clashes with Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem. The boy, Tariq Abu Khudair, who goes to school in Florida, was sentenced to nine days of home detention while police continue to investigate.
The U.S. State Department said it was “profoundly troubled” by reports of his beating, and Israel’s Justice Ministry launched an investigation.
Police said the boy is suspected of taking part in a riot – a charge his family denies. As Tariq returned to his family, he was crying and appeared badly bruised, with both eyes and his mouth swollen. “I feel better. I am excited to be back home,” he said.
The situation along Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, remained tense. Gaza militants have stepped up rocket fire in recent weeks, drawing Israeli airstrikes. By nightfall, militants had fired some 20 rockets and mortars into Israel.