Accessibility links

6 Jewish Suspects Held in Palestinian Teen's Death

Israeli soldiers stand on their armoured personnel carrier (APC) in an army deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip, July 6, 2014.

Israeli soldiers stand on their armoured personnel carrier (APC) in an army deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip, July 6, 2014.

Israeli police have arrested six Jewish suspects in the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager who was burned to death.

Authorities say the suspects in the killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir had "nationalist motives" and belonged to an "extremist Jewish group." The killing, apparently in revenge of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted and later found dead, has set off four days of violent protests in Jerusalem and Israeli Arab towns.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again appealed for calm amid increasing tensions.

He vowed to "not allow extremists, it doesn't matter from which side, to set the region on fire and to bring a new wave of bloodshed.''

Israel's Shin Bet security agency said the suspects were being questioned at one of its installations.

Abu Khdeir's burnt body was discovered in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday, a day after the burial of three Jewish teens who were abducted while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank on June 12.

Their bodies were found on Monday, near the road where they had gone missing, and Israel blames Hamas militants for their kidnapping and killing. The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

Arabs rioting

The kidnapping and murder on Wednesday of Abu Khdeir sparked four straight days of riots that began in annexed Arab east Jerusalem but on Saturday spread to more than half a dozen Arab towns in central and northern Israel.

The areas were largely quiet on Sunday, but police remained on high alert.

In east Jerusalem, home to the most violent protests over the teen's death, Abu Khdeir's mother, Suha, welcomed news of the arrests but said she had little faith in the Israeli justice system, according to the Associated Press.

“I don't have any peace in my heart. Even if they captured who they say killed my son,” she said. “They're only going to ask them questions and then release them. What's the point?"

“They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do it to our children,” she added.

Rocket attacks

Adding to the tensions, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have stepped up rocket attacks on southern Israel, drawing Israeli airstrikes in retaliation.

Late Sunday, the Israeli military said its airstrikes killed two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It said the strikes were in response to the more than 20 rockets that had been fired Sunday at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu signalled that broader Israeli action was not imminent.

In remarks to his cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu pledged "to do whatever is necessary" to restore quiet to southern Israeli communities that have come under rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is the dominant force.

But he also cautioned against any rush toward wider confrontation with the group, whose arsenal includes long-range rockets that can reach Israel's heartland and its business capital, Tel Aviv.

"Experience has shown that during moments like these, one must act in a level-headed and responsible manner and not hastily," Netanyahu told his cabinet, in broadcast remarks.

Tariq Khdeir, right, is greeted by his mother after being released from jail in Jerusalem, July 6, 2014.

Tariq Khdeir, right, is greeted by his mother after being released from jail in Jerusalem, July 6, 2014.

American teen beaten

The parents of Mohammed Abu Khdeir's American-born cousin said Israeli police badly beat their son before arresting him Thursday.

Tariq Abu Khudair, a U.S. citizen, was visiting family in East Jerusalem when he was apprehended Thursday in clashes with police.

On Saturday, a video circulated on the Internet showing two Israeli border policemen beating a suspect, whom the parents identified as Tariq.

His parents said they barley recognized their son's badly swollen face when they saw him in a hospital.

A Jerusalem court on Sunday fined Tariq about $900 and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest, pending an investigation.

Police say he was armed with a slingshot used to hurl stones at security forces and resisted arrest.

As he left court, Tariq said he is OK now but described how police hit him.

''They hit me in the face, they hit me, they brutally hit me, they put me unconscious. I could not do anything about it," Tariq said.

His mother, Suha Abu Khdeir, protested the continued restrictions on her son.

"I feel like he does not deserve to be on house arrest out of his own home for nine days and have a bail. On what charges? He has not been charged. There is no charge on him. Why are you putting him on house arrest? It makes no sense. I am American. I know the American law. This does not happen in America," said Suha Abu Khdeir.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was profoundly troubled by the alleged police beating and strongly condemns any excessive use of force.

In a statement Sunday, Psaki said a U.S. Consulate General official was at Khdeir's court hearing. She said if the investigation is concluded promptly, the American teen "should be able to return to Florida as planned with his family later this month." The teen's mother said the family hopes to return to the United States on July 16.

Israel's Justice Ministry reportedly launched a formal investigation.

Robert Berger contributed to this report from Jerusalem. Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.