Three Israeli suspects have been indicted for the grisly murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Their names are being currently withheld, to protect their families from violent reprisals which could further inflame a small region already at war with itself.
One Jewish man and two minors, both 17 years old, reenacted the murder at the scene of the crime for investigators. Their arrests came at the end of an investigation which managed to track the vehicle used in several other attacks against Palestinians, and the three confessed to abducting and killing the teenage Arab.
The three suspects are related; the oldest, 29, is from the West Bank settlement of Adam, while the underaged youths are from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh. All three were charged with murder, kidnapping, and a number of other race-related crimes which occurred over the time period surrounding the teenager’s death, including the attempted kidnapping of a 7-year-old Palestinian Arab boy.
In the early morning of July 2, only a day after three murdered Jewish teens were buried amid outrage and growing violence across Israel, Abu Khdeir was forced into a car on an East Jerusalem street in Shuafat, where he waited for entrance to a mosque. Members of his family contacted the Israeli police and, an hour later, his body was found at Givat Shaul in the Jerusalem Forest. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat called for calm, denouncing the act as horrible and barbaric, and asked the Palestinian people to allow the country’s security forces to bring the killers to justice.
Preliminary forensic evidence showed that the teen was beaten severely in the head and then burned while still alive. There was evidence of soot and flammable materials found in his lungs, indicating Abu Khdeir was still breathing when the fire was set.
Abu Khdeir’s death was instantly denounced as a nationalistic revenge crime carried out in racist retaliation for the murders of three yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel, who were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank, their bodies buried in a field to the northwest of Hebron.
Israel blamed Hamas agents for the abductions and sent soldiers into the West Bank to round up anti-Israel activists. According to BBC news reports, the Palestinians saw this as a punishment on all citizens and not a search for evidence.
With the arrest of hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank, the BBC claims, violence surged back into the conflict-torn region and escalated from protester’s shouting and throwing stones to military action. Hamas-connected militants in Gaza fired rockets into Israel. Israeli armed forces responded with air strikes in Gaza. The death toll has climbed into the hundreds for the Palestinians whose homes and businesses are under direct attack.
Abu Khdeir’s death only added fresh fuel to the violent protests in Jerusalem which spread rapidly to Arab towns, where citizens fought riot police. Demonstrations and pitched street battles raised new conflict between the state of Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization founded in 1987 for the express purpose of liberating Palestine from Israel and to create an Islamic state in its place.
According to The Times of Israel newspaper, “Abu Khdeir’s funeral coincided with the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan” and brought with it riots among the Palestinian citizens. Rocks and Molotov cocktails were hurled at police who attempted to monitor and pacify the crowds of angry mourners.
Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, has disclosed that the Jewish extremists responsible for Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s death “equipped themselves with cable ties, petrol, and other materials,” and then chose the teenager at random.
When the murder indictments were filed today, the Defense Ministry of Israel declared that Abu Khdeir’s death was the result of terrorist activities. From the start, the murder was widely condemned in Israel, with both the media and the government expressing shock and shame. The families of the three slain Israeli teenagers have reached out to Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s family with their condolences and the hope that their pleas for peace will be heard.
The oldest suspect, and the only legal adult among the three Israelis being charged with the crime, may plea temporary insanity stemming from longterm mental illness, using a backing claim from his family that he attempted to kill his own daughter in recent weeks. Another suspect claimed that murder was not the intention of their attack, and that the three Israelis meant to beat the teenager but not kill him.
Despite peace talks in Egypt and a five-hour humanitarian cease fire today — during which the UN distributed water, food, and hygiene kits — the fighting has returned and so have the cries for revenge on both sides. Like so many others before them, the names of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the three Israeli teens whose deaths led to his, will likely continue to be used as a reason for this decades-old bitter, nationalist struggle.
[Image courtesy of haaretz.com]