Arab teen was burned alive, Palestinians say, as unrest spreads to Israeli towns

 

McClatchy Foreign Staff

Initial autopsy findings that an Arab teenager found dead after he was kidnapped in East Jerusalem was burned alive added Saturday to a growing sense that Israeli-Palestinian tensions have reached explosive levels.

Protests over the death of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, spread from East Jerusalem to Arab communities inside Israel. Youths burned tires and hurled stones in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, in Arab towns northeast of Tel Aviv, and along a major east-west highway flanked by Arab villages.

The apparent beating by Israeli police of an Arab-American teen from Florida who is a cousin of Abu Khdeir and was visiting family in East Jerusalem also drew criticism from the Obama administration.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was “profoundly troubled by reports” that 15-year-old Tarik Abu Khdeir, a high school sophomore from Tampa, “was severely beaten while in police custody.”

“We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force,” Psaki said.

The Palestinian Authority’s attorney general, Muhammad Abdel Ghani al Aweiwi, said in a statement that an autopsy showed that Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was abducted early Wednesday outside a mosque in East Jerusalem, died from “burns and their complications.”

The post mortem examination of Abu Khdeir’s body found “soot in the area of the breathing airways, windpipes and….lungs, which indicates inhalation of this substance during the burning when he was alive,” the statement said.

Burns of varying degrees were found on 90 percent of the youth’s body, and his head was bruised, according to the statement. Specimens were taken from the corpse for further laboratory examination.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli health ministry and a police spokesman said they had no knowledge of the preliminary findings. The autopsy was performed at Israel’s forensic institute with the participation of the chief Palestinian forensic pathologist, and final results have yet to be released.

But the Palestinian attorney general’s statement, which was released late Friday, seemed likely to exacerbate what already had become a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the wake of the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers, who disappeared June 12 and whose bodies were found hidden in a field in the West Bank on Monday.

Police say they are still trying to determine whether Abu Khdeir’s kidnapping and murder hours after the three Israeli teens’ joint funeral was retaliation for the Israelis’ deaths. But even without that official finding, the discovery of his body in a wooded area of Jerusalem surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods set off a wave of rioting in Arab East Jerusalem, where stone-throwing youths have confronted Israeli police in several neighborhoods.

The unrest spread on Saturday to Arab towns in Israel, with masked youths setting up barricades of burning tires and hurling stones at police, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

After a meeting with security chiefs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a crackdown on the rioters, Israeli media reported.

Netanyahu has condemned the killing of Abu Khdeir, calling it a “despicable murder.”

On Saturday, the Israeli Justice Ministry said it also would investigate the severe beating of Tarik Abu Khdeir during street clashes on Thursday.

A video circulated on the Internet shows two Israeli border police officers repeatedly punching, kicking and stomping on the youth as he lies on the ground, then carrying him off with his arms cuffed behind his back to a group of Israeli undercover officers disguised as masked protesters. Pictures of the youth’s swollen and disfigured face were also posted on the Internet.

Tarik Abu Khdeir’s father, Salahedeen Abu Khdeir, told McClatchy in a telephone interview, that he and his son were on a month-long visit from Tampa to East Jerusalem to see relatives.

Salahdeen Abu Khdeir said that his son had gone outside to watch the confrontations in the neighborhood when he was assaulted by police and beaten senseless. He said his son had not participated in any stone-throwing, and had been held for more than six hours without medical treatment before being transferred to a hospital.

The teenager is currently in detention, awaiting a court hearing on Sunday, his father said.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said that the video was edited and failed to show the entire incident, in which six masked Palestinians, three of them armed with knives, had resisted arrest and assaulted the officers.

“The circumstances of the case are being reviewed,” he said.

Tensions also remained high on the border with the Gaza Strip, after militants fired more rockets into Israel, causing no casualties. Israel responded with air strikes, hitting three “Hamas terror targets,” in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said.

Egypt is working to mediate a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel after three weeks of cross-border hostilities triggered by the kidnapping and killing of the Israeli teens, which Israel blamed on Hamas.

Greenberg is a McClatchy special correspondent.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Samsung Electronics' 2Q profit miss forecast

    Samsung Electronics Co. reported lower-than-expected profit for the second quarter on Thursday and said it was uncertain if handset business profit would improve during the current period.

  •  
Displaced Palestinian children collect water, at the Abu Hussein U.N. school, in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  Some 3,300 Gazans seeking shelter from the fighting had been crowded into the U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp when it was hit by a series of Israeli artillery shells on Wednesday.

    AP PHOTOS: At least 17 die in Gaza school attack

    Shelling of a school crowded with refugees in Gaza early Wednesday killed at least 17 people and wounded 90 more, according to Palestinian health officials.

  • Australians leaders differ on Russian role in war

    Australia's prime minister and foreign minister on Thursday sent mixed messages on whether Russia was frustrating Dutch and Australian police efforts to retrieve the bodies of victims of the Malaysian airliner disaster in war-torn east Ukraine.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category