JERUSALEM - A Palestinian teenager was reportedly kidnapped and killed on Wednesday, triggering violent clashes in east Jerusalem, in an apparent act of revenge for the murder of three Israeli youths.
The killing was denounced by the Palestinian leadership which said it held Israel responsible and demanded the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu act to prevent revenge attacks.
Hamas warned Wednesday that Israel would pay for the kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager in annexed east Jerusalem. “We send our message to the Zionist entity and its leaders, which hold direct responsibility (for the murder), that our people will not let this crime pass, nor all the killings and destruction by your settlers,” the movement said.
Israeli troops has also demolished the home of a Palestinian man charged with the murder of a high-ranking Israeli police officer earlier this year, the army and Palestinian witnesses said.
Witnesses in Idhna village, 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Hebron, told AFP troops arrived during the night and blew up the home of Ziad Awad, 42. Awad has been charged with murdering Baruch Mizrahi, a senior officer in police intelligence, in an April shooting incident on a road near Idhna.
Netanyahu also condemned the “despicable murder” and ordered investigators to work “as quickly as possible” to track down the perpetrators, while urging both sides “not to take the law into their own hands”.
Israel’s army radio said the teenager was forced into a black car while hitchhiking in east Jerusalem and that a body was later found in a forest in the western part of the city, describing it as a “suspected revenge attack”.
Shortly after dawn, crowds of angry Palestinians began gathering outside the teenager’s home in Shuafat, with clashes erupting around 8:00am (0500 GMT) when stones were hurled at police, who responded with sound bombs and rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent and police said.
Clouds of black smoke rose into the summer sky as hundreds of masked Palestinians faced off with Israeli police in riot gear.
At least 35 people were injured by rubber bullets, among them at least six journalists, the correspondent said. The normally-bustling main road was littered with stones and the light rail service which passes through the neighbourhood was suspended.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat denounced the murder and called for calm. “This is a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn,” he said in a statement, urging all parties “to exercise restraint.”
Tensions have soared across the region since June 12 when three Israeli teenagers disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Their bodies were found on Monday, with Israel blaming Hamas for the triple killings and vowing to hit the movement hard.
The murders triggered calls for revenge, with more than 200 Israelis rampaging through Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, surging onto the light rail and dragging people out of cars in the middle of the road, chanting “Death to Arabs,” police and witnesses said.
A Palestinian worker in McDonald’s was also attacked by a masked youth during the evening, police said.
Early on Wednesday, police received reports about a person being forced into a car in Beit Hanina prompting a widespread search which resulted in the discovery of a body in the Jerusalem forest by Givat Shaul, which is in west Jerusalem, spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
Police have not yet confirmed a link between the kidnapping and the body, nor have they publicly identified the victim, but Walla news website quoted Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch as saying there was a connection.
Family members named the missing boy as 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder from Shuafat neighbourhood, which is next door to Beit Hanina.
As the clashes raged in Shuafat, where the streets were littered with burning dumpsters and makeshift barricades, the only place of relative calm was the family home, an AFP correspondent said.
Wearing a blue headscarf, 40-year-old Suha Abu Khder, mother of the missing teen, sat in stunned silence, sometimes breaking down in tears in a room filled with relatives and friends.
Ansam Abu Khder, one of the teenager’s cousins, said witnesses had written down the car’s licence plate and that police were examining CCTV footage.
“We knew about Mohammed’s kidnapping by three israelis just before the dawn prayers. A witness saw them and took down the licence plate,” he told AFP.
“We hope that the body they found is not my cousin’s body. The police took his father early in the morning to identify the body and we still haven’t heard back from him.”
Outside, Israel special forces were lined up along the street, and stationed on nearby rooftops while Palestinian youths darted across the road, as police fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and rubber-coated metal bullets, AFP correspondents said.
The families of the three murdered Israeli teenagers, who were buried on in an emotionally-charged funeral on Tuesday, issued a statement condemning the incident.
“If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives then this is a horrible and horrendous act,” it said.
“There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder.”
In a separate development, suspected Jewish extremists set fire to the ground floor of a house in the West Bank village of Aqraba near Nablus, police said.