JERUSALEM (AP) — The suspected abduction of an Arab teen followed by the discovery of a body in Jerusalem on Wednesday ignited clashes between Israeli police and stone-throwing Palestinians, who saw it as a revenge attack for the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities were investigating the teenager’s disappearance and trying to identify the body, found in a forest on the outskirts of town. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to calm the situation, urging authorities to swiftly investigate the “reprehensible murder” and calling on all sides “not to take the law into their own hands.”
Tensions have mounted between Israel and the Palestinians since the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found in the West Bank on Monday, more than two weeks after they went missing. On Tuesday hundreds of right-wing Jewish youths marched through Jerusalem calling for revenge.
Israel has accused Hamas of abducting and killing the three teens, and has arrested hundreds of its members across the West Bank. Rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has meanwhile intensified, and been met with Israeli air strikes.
The missing boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 17, was approached by a car early Wednesday in a Palestinian neighborhood of east Jerusalem and then forced into it before it sped off, his cousin Saed Abu Khdeir said.
He believes his cousin was murdered by Israelis in an act of revenge. “It’s a clear crime by settlers in revenge for the killing of the three,” he said.
Rosenfeld said police received a report early Wednesday that an Arab teen was “forcibly pulled into a vehicle” in an area of east Jerusalem and that an hour later a body was discovered in a separate part of the city.
As news of the youth’s disappearance spread, hundreds of Palestinians in east Jerusalem torched light rail train stations and hurled stones at Israeli police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
At midafternoon, masked men holed up in a mosque in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina lobbed rocks toward Israeli security forces in the street below. Police responded by firing stun grenades toward the mosque, as a small group of Palestinian youths stood to the side.
The street was largely deserted and littered with rocks and debris, as a small fire set next to a large green trash bin spewed black smoke into the air. There were no reports of injuries.
Rosenfeld said security was heightened following the clashes, with extra units dispatched and light rail service cut short to avoid the violence. Police also closed a key holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City to visitors after rock throwing there.
Israeli officials urged calm as police investigated the incidents.
“Everything is being examined. There are many possibilities. There is a criminal possibility as well as a political one,” Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, told Israel Radio. “I am telling everyone, let us wait patiently.”
Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Netanyahu in a statement to condemn the death.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Abbas, said Israel was being held responsible for the death and called on it to “find the killers and hold them accountable,” according to the Palestinian official news agency Wafa.
On Tuesday thousands of Israelis attended the funerals of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, the three Jewish seminary students who went missing last month and whose bodies were found Monday in a field near the West Bank city of Hebron.
Israel meanwhile demolished the West Bank home of Ziad Awad, who was found guilty by a military court of killing an Israeli police officer in April. The demolition on Wednesday marked a return to a policy abandoned by the military in 2005. Israel sees house demolitions as a deterrent to violence, while critics charge it is a form of collective punishment.
In a separate incident, Palestinians in the West Bank town of Aqrabeh said their home was set on fire and the Hebrew words for “price tag” sprayed on the walls.
Radical Israeli settlers have been carrying out so-called “price tag” acts of vandalism in recent years to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government’s pro-Palestinian policies and in retaliation for Palestinian attacks.
The vandals have targeted mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases.
Associated Press writers Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank contributed to this report.