Israeli police on Sunday arrested a group of Jewish suspects in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager in what is thought to have been a revenge killing for the murder of three Israeli teens abducted last month.
In a joint statement, Israeli police and the Shin Bet security agency said the suspects were in custody and were being interrogated by Shin Bet.
"A number of Jewish suspects were arrested by the Shin Bet and Israeli police before dawn on July 6 on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir from Shuafat on July 2," Israel's Internal Security Agency said.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch described the suspects as "youths".
Earlier, an official told AFP on condition of anonymity that those arrested were "extremists".
"Apparently the people arrested in relation to the case belong to an extremist Jewish group," he said.
"Haaretz" newspaper reported that six people had been arrested, but details of the case remain under a strict gag order.
Initial autopsy reports on Saturday indicated that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was burned alive.
The brutal July 2 killing triggered ongoing clashes that began in East Jerusalem before spreading to more than half a dozen Arab towns in Israel, with angry protesters hurling stones at Israeli riot police.
Earlier on Sunday, police acknowledged for the first time that there were "indications that the background to the killing was nationalistic".
The comments followed widespread speculation that Wednesday's murder was carried out by Jewish extremists in revenge for last month's abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank. Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, went missing from the southern West Bank on June 12.
Tensions continued to rise in the south with Gaza militants firing another nine rockets over the border, as Israel launched 10 air strikes overnight.
President Shimon Peres said on Sunday that Israel would get to the bottom of Abu Khdeir’s killing and bring whoever is responsible to justice.
“If Jews are becoming killers, they will be put to court like any killer,” he told a gathering of foreign journalists in the southern town Sderot, where he was meeting with local residents enduring the ongoing rocket barrages from neighbouring Gaza. “Whoever was killed, for us was murdered, for us is a victim.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel would act calmly and responsibly in the face of rising Israeli-Palestinian hostilities.
“Experience proves that, in moments like these, one must act calmly and responsibly, not hysterically and hastily,” Netanyahu said at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting.
Palestinian-American teen released
Israel police arrested 35 people overnight as violent protests over Abu Khdeir’s murder swept more than half a dozen Arab-Israeli towns.
The violence exploded as a top Palestinian legal official confirmed that initial findings from the post-mortem showed there was smoke in Abu Khdeir's lungs, indicating he was still alive when he was set on fire.
A Jerusalem court on Sunday also released a Palestinian-American teenager who was allegedly beaten by police but confined him to house arrest for nine days pending an investigation into allegations he threw stones at police.
Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, is a cousin of the murdered teenager. He was arrested on Thursday in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shuafat as clashes raged with police, and his parents said he was badly beaten in police custody.
A day after his arrest a video surfaced on YouTube showing Israeli border police beating and kicking a handcuffed, semi-conscious figure on the ground before dragging him away.
Washington said it was "profoundly troubled" by the reports. Responding to the US request for a probe, the Israeli justice ministry said in a statement that the police investigations department was looking into the beating incident.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-06