Israeli police are investigating whether a Palestinian teenager whose body was found in a Jerusalem woods was murdered in revenge for the killing of three Israeli youths, blamed on Hamas militants.
“We are checking several possible leads, including criminal motives, or whether this was done for nationalistic reasons,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said by phone.
The victim may be the same youth seen forced into a vehicle earlier today in the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem, Rosenfeld said. Most other details of the investigation are under court-imposed censorship.
The body’s discovery the day after the kidnapped Israeli teens were buried has aroused concern it could be an escalation of the so-called “price tag” attacks of Jewish extremists on Arab property and mosques.
“If this act is really part of the price tag incidents, it would be a dramatic escalation,” said Avi Dichter, a former minister and ex-head of Israel’s internal security agency, known as Shin Bet. “All the other incidents were severe, weren’t pleasant, but they didn’t end in the taking of a life,” Dichter said on Army Radio.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat quickly condemned the killing as a “horrible and barbaric act” and called for all sides to “exercise restraint.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Islamist Hamas group of kidnapping and killing the Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the June 30 discovery of their bodies has spurred demonstrations calling for stronger government action against Palestinian militants. Police arrested 47 protesters in Jerusalem yesterday for blocking the main road into the city and other public disturbances in the capital, Rosenfeld said.
Hamas hasn’t confirmed or denied involvement in the killings. Since the teens disappeared June 12, Israeli security forces have raided hundreds of West Bank locations, arresting hundreds of Palestinians, most from Hamas, the military said. Six Palestinians have died in the roundups.
In addition, Israel has carried out air strikes against gunmen in Gaza who have launched dozens of rockets into Israel in recent days.
Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Palestinian official, said in a phone interview that the abduction and killing of the Arab teenager is the result of an Israeli policy of violence toward Palestinians and settlement on lands they claim.