Murder raises tension in West Bank

Updated: 2014-07-04 08:41

By Associated Press in Jerusalem (China Daily)

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israeli extremists for the abduction and murder of an Arab teenager on 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.

Abbas said that extremist Jewish settlers were clearly responsible for the murder of 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir 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 on Monday just over two weeks after they disappeared in the West Bank.Israel accused Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, of being behind the abductions but failed to present any evidence to back the claim.

Israeli forces then led the largest ground operation in the West Bank in nearly a decade, arresting hundreds of Hamas members. The Islamist group had established a unity Palestinian government with Abbas' Fatah movement on June 2, prompting outrage from the Israeli government, which describes Hamas as a"terrorist organization"and seeks to dismantle it.

The discovery of the three dead Israeli teens on Monday led to a national outpouring of grief, with tens of thousands of people attending a funeral on Tuesday in which the victims 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 Abu Khdeir said he 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, though police said late on Wednesday they were still awaiting forensics tests to make a positive identification.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities were looking at"a number of different directions"in the killing, including nationalistic or criminal motives."We are waiting for the final results of the autopsy," he said.

But Abu Khdeir's family said they had no doubt about the killers, accusing extremist Israelis of killing him to avenge the deaths of the Israeli teenagers.

"Who else could do this? There's no one else,"said the teen's father, Saed Abu Khdeir.He said he spent the day with police and gave DNA samples to help identify the body.

As of Wednesday evening, police said the testing was still ongoing.Police were also reviewing security camera footage taken from the scene. Relatives said the video showed a car nearing the youth, people stepping out and forcing him into the vehicle and speeding away.

 Murder raises tension in West Bank

Suha, mother of Mohammed Abu Khudair, shows a picture of her son at home in Shuafat, an Arab suburb of Jerusalem on Wednesday. The presumed body of the abducted Palestinian youth was found in Jerusalem, raising suspicions that he was killed by Israelis in revenge for the deaths of three abducted Jewish teens, whose bodies were found on Monday. Ammar Awad / Reuters

(China Daily 07/04/2014 page12)