Israeli police have found a body believed to be of a Palestinian teenager reportedly kidnapped in East Jerusalem earlier the same morning as tensions continue to rise in the region.
Speculation has mounted that the killing could be a revenge attack for the murder of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank, who were kidnapped on June 12 as they attempted to hitchhike home. Their corpses were found buried under rocks close to Hebron on the West Bank on Monday afternoon.
Palestinian locals told a Reuters photographer they saw a boy forced into a vehicle outside a Shoafat supermarket, an Arab area of East Jerusalem. Ma'an News said the youth was 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdei.
Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said officers had been notified of a youth "pulled into a vehicle and possibly kidnapped" and roadblocks had been put in place to try to find the teen. Rosenfeld said he had then discovered "a body in the Jerusalem forest and were looking to see if there was a connection between the missing youth and the body that was found."
A security source told Reuters that authorities suspected that the killing was a revenge attack for the deaths of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, but added that it could be a domestic dispute or "honour killing".
Israeli media on Tuesday aired a recording of a desperate phone call to a police hotline by one of the Israeli teens before he was killed. A voice, believed to be Shaar's is heard saying in Hebrew "I was kidnapped" followed by another voice shouting "head down." The police man attempts to get the boy to speak more, but the abductor continues to shout "head down". Then a voice says in Arabic: "Bring it here, bring here, take the phone from him."
Police have said the release of the audio was not authorised but confirmed it was authentic.
Rioting has continued through the night and into the morning in east Jerusalem. Four days into Ramadan, Israeli security forces have taken the decision to close off the Temple Mount after masked rioters hurl rocks at police forces in the holy compound. Earlier, Palestinians had thrown homemade explosives at police near Shoafat, where the Palestinian teen was taken, with one person injured.
It follows mobs of Israeli extremists who also protested in Jerusalem on Tuesday, calling for revenge for the murder of the Israeli teens. Five Palestinians were attacked, with two hospitalised.
The body of the Palestinian boy was found in a forest in Givat Shaul, southwest Jerusalem. Israel's Army Radio said a black Hyundai car had stopped next to a youth who was hitchhiking and the boy was forcibly pulled inside before the driver sped away.
“We have not yet been able to determine if the motive was nationalistic or criminal,” Jerusalem police chief Yossi Parienti said. “We are investigating every possibility.”
"I ask Jerusalem residents and everyone else not to jump to conclusions, to wait for developments. There are conjectures and working assessments, we are not hurrying to say one way or another. I ask everyone to show responsibility, understanding and patience."
Israel's Ynet said it had learned that the body was charred and showed signs of violence.
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino said "the police will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands" and called on the public to show restraint.
Frenkel's family condemned the killing of the Palestinian teenager, Ynet reported. "If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives then this is a horrible and horrendous act. There is no difference between (Arab) blood and (Jewish) blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder," said Yisahi Frenkel, Naftali's uncle.
Justice Miniser Tzipi Livni tweeted that "the murder of the Arab boy in Jerusalem [is a] shocking incident that must be condemned, zero tolerance for it."
רצח הערבי בירושלים. ארוע מזעזע שיש לגנות אותו, לגלות אפס סובלנות כלפיו ולפעול למצוא את הרוצחים ולהעמידם לדין.
כך... http://t.co/F44UL3xJ9S— Tzipi Livni (@Tzipi_Livni) July 2, 2014
Palestinians have also reported another so-called "price-tag" graffiti attack. The words "Price tag blood vengeance" were scrawled on some homes in the in the Palestinian village of Akraba near Nablus, and an animal feeding pen was set on fire.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are continuing the manhunt for the chief suspects in the killings Marwan Kawasme, 29, and Amar Abu Aysha, 32. The Hamas-linked pair are widely suspected to have taken the teens, but not acted under the direct instructions of Hamas leadership.
Hamas has not taken responsibility for the kidnapping and killings but had previously praised the kidnapping. As Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that "Hamas will pay" after the discovery of the bodies but a Hamas spokesman was quoted warning on Monday night that “any Israeli response will open the gates of hell.”
Israel's security cabinet has met for a second night running to discuss how to deal with Hamas - which entered into a unity government in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. One of Netanyahu's demands is expected to be the immediate dismantling of that coalition, to prevent further military action in the territories.
An Israeli official told AFP that Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had suggested a "measured" military response, and Netanyahu was inclined to agree. Abbas himself had condemned the kidnappings, and assigned his own forces to help in the search for the boys while they were missing. On Wednesday, he demanded Netanyahu also condemn the murder of the Palestinian boy.
Haaretz reported that 42 Palestinians were arrested by the IDF in West Bank raids on Tuesday night. Some of those who were arrested were those freed in the deal to save Gilad Shalit- the IDF soldier, held by Hamas for five years in Gaza, who was released in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel held a joint funeral for the three slain teenagers Tuesday night, attended by Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. British Jews have organised their own vigil in London, outside the Israeli embassy, with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attending the event tonight.