Israeli Police announced Sunday, July 6, the arrest of six Jewish men from Beit Shemesh and Adam near Jerusalem and the city itself in connection with the murder of the Palestinian 16-year old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, whose charred body was found in the Jerusalem Forest on July 2. The motive is believed to be “nationalistic revenge” for the three Israel teenage boys kidnapped and slain by Hamas activists who are still at large.
Police have also identified the vehicle used by three of the suspects who are alleged to have kidnapped the Palestinian boy from Sheafat, northwest Jerusalem on July 1, the day before his body was found. Police suspect that they struck him on the head, drove off with him to the Jerusalem Forest and then burned his body to erase forensic evidence.
The suspects admit they were in the vicinity of the crime but deny having committed the murder.
A gag order has been issued on the publication of details of the inquiry except for police statements.
An autopsy was conducted on the boy’s body in the presence of a Palestinian forensic specialist. Palestinian sources said that soot found in the boy’s respiratory canal and lungs indicated that he was burned to death and suffered burns on “90 percent of his body.” This was not confirmed by Israeli investigators.
The discovery of Abu Khdeir’s body sparked a three-day frenzy of Palestinian and Israeli Arab rioting in Jerusalem, where 10 Jews were injured by firebombs, and northern Israel, where Jewish drivers were beaten up by Israeli Arabs.
The top-notch Jerusalem Police Central Unit has been assigned to lead the investigation. Senior officers have promised that every possible effort will be made to solve this murder. President Shimon Peres stated that those responsible will be tried and punished. Israeli leaders have widely condemned the killing of the Palestinian youth, whoever was responsible, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice.
In a separate incident, Abu Khdeir’s 15-year-old cousin Tariq, a US citizen was beaten by police during clashes in Jerusalem on Thursday. Tariq’s parents, Suha and Salah, said he was detained but had been treated at an Israeli hospital. They released photos showing his face swollen and badly bruised. An Israeli police spokeswoman said Tariq Abu Khdeir had resisted arrest and attacked police officers. He was detained with a slingshot in his possession, along with six other protesters, including some armed with knives, she said, adding that several officers were hurt. Tariq’s father said he witnessed his son’s arrest and that the boy was not involved in the violence.
Sunday, after a court hearing, he was released to nine days house arrest and told reporters he had been treated well.