OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Three Israeli Jews arrested for the murder of a Palestinian teenager have confessed to abducting him and burning him alive, officials said Monday, an incident that helped trigger a week of Israeli-Hamas fighting around the Gaza strip.
Easing a court gag order on the case, Israel said the suspects, two of them minors, had told interrogators that in killing Mohammad Abu Khudair they sought revenge for the murder of three Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank last month.
The names of the suspects, remanded by an Israeli court pending a formal indictment, were not immediately given.
Tensions escalated around the two incidents. More than 170 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed by Israeli action against Gaza.
The adult suspect facing the gravest allegations might plead mitigation in citing past mental illness.
“I expect soon to get the investigative material, in which I will look for support for the assessment there is a complex problem in the matter of my client’s criminal culpability,” said an attorney for Honenu, an ultranationalist legal aid organization.
According to Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, in the early hours of July 2, as Muslims marked the end of the daylight Ramadan fast, the three suspects “patrolled Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem for a number of hours, in an attempt to find a victim to abduct, until they spotted Mohammad Abu Khudair.”
Bundling him into their car, they drove to a forest outside the city where the 29-year-old suspect beat him on the head with a lug wrench and, helped by the two 17-year-olds, doused him with fuel and lit it, the Shin Bet said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who blamed Hamas for the killing of the Jewish youths and launched a crackdown against the Palestinian Islamist group, deplored Abu Khudair’s murder as “loathsome.” He ordered police to find the culprits swiftly and pledged to see them prosecuted to the full extent of the law.