JERUSALEM — Reports of an Arab teenager being forced into a car in an East Jerusalem neighborhood early Wednesday and of a body found later in a Jerusalem forest have raised suspicions of an Israeli revenge attack, further charging the atmosphere in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the police received a report early Wednesday of a teenager being forced into a vehicle in Beit Hanina, a Palestinian area of East Jerusalem. The police immediately put up roadblocks to try to locate the vehicle. An hour later, Rosenfeld said, a body was found in a forest near the entrance to the city.
“We are checking if there is a connection,” he said, adding that the police were looking into possible criminal or nationalistic motives for the killing, including the suspicion that it may have been a revenge attack by Israelis.
Palestinian radio reported that a youth named Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, 16, was “kidnapped at dawn by three settlers” and that his body was found burned in a forest.
The police beefed up their presence in Jerusalem after receiving the report, and helicopters could be heard.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the murder of the boy in a statement.
“This is a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn,” he said. “This is not our way, and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice. I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”
Tensions have been running high since three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped while hitching a ride home from their West Bank yeshivas June 12, and suspicion fell on Palestinian militants. Their bodies were found in a field in the Hebron area 18 days later, and they were brought to a joint burial Tuesday in Modiin, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
As the funerals were underway, hundreds of extreme-right-wing protesters gathered in Jerusalem demanding that the government avenge the deaths. Chanting “Death to Arabs,” they tried to attack Arab passers-by who had to be extricated by the police. More than 40 protesters were arrested.