Sunday, July 6, 2014

Israel: Update--Six Jewish Suspects Arrested Re: Murder of Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16

According to Reuters, Israel has arrested six Jewish suspects in the abduction and killing of a Palestinian teenager whose death sparked violent protests in Jerusalem and Israeli-Arab towns, a security source said on Sunday (July 6).

With tensions high along the Gaza border, Israel said its aircraft attacked ten sites in the Palestinian enclave in response to persistent rocket strikes on southern Israeli towns.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, though, that broader Israeli action was not imminent.

The security source gave no details about the suspects arrested in the investigation into the abduction and killing of Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, other than to say they were Jewish.

Abu Khudair's burned body was discovered in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday (July 2).

Palestinians believe he was the victim of Jews avenging the kidnap-killing of three Israeli teenagers who disappeared while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank on June 12, whose bodies were found on Monday (June 30).

Israel blames the deaths of Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah, on Hamas. The Gaza flare-up began in mid-June during Israel's search for the teens in the West Bank and its arrests of Hamas members. 

Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the killings.

COMMENT: In remarks to his cabinet on Sunday (July 6), 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.

The PM 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 of 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.

Israel beefed up ground forces along the Gaza frontier on Thursday, a deployment widely seen as sending a message to Palestinian militant groups that an invasion was an option if rocket fire did not stop. 

But in a move that could harden militants' resolve to confront Israel, the military said it cut the fishing zone for Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza from six to three nautical miles.

Palestinian-American Tariq Khdeir, 15, a cousin of the slain Palestinian teenager, was arrested by Israeli border policemen, who his family said beat him severely, during a protest on Thursday (July 3) in East Jerusalem.

An Israeli court on Sunday ordered Khdeir released from jail and placed under house arrest for nine days. His mother said the family planned to return to Tampa, FL on July 16.

In Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he sent a message to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging the formation of an international investigation committee into "terror crimes conducted against our people, including the burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khudair."

An autopsy attended by a Palestinian pathologist showed soot in the teenager's lungs, indicating he was still alive when he was set on fire, the Palestinian attorney general said.