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Arab youth's death labeled revenge

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 8:39 p.m.

JERUSALEM — The abduction and suspected revenge killing of an Arab youth sparked intense clashes on Wednesday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem — raising the specter of wider violence two days after three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found dead in the Occupied West Bank.

Israeli police said late Wednesday that they haven't confirmed the circumstances of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khieder's disappearance or identify a badly burned body found in a forest outside Jerusalem. But Israeli news media, citing anonymous security officials, said authorities have determined that Khieder likely was killed by Jews in a “nationalistic crime.”

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for restraint as he convened his security cabinet for the third consecutive night to discuss a response to the kidnappings and killings. Israel blames the slayings of the Israeli teens on the militant Islamist group Hamas. On Wednesday, Palestinian leaders accused extremist Jewish settlers of killing Khieder.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned settlers for “killing and burning a little boy.” He demanded, in a statement, that Israel “hold the killers accountable.”

As reports of the Palestinian teen's death spread, street battles broke out between security forces and residents from the youth's neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which has been annexed by Israel.

Palestinian protesters hurled firebombs and stones at Israeli police officers and soldiers. The demonstrators also smashed and set fire to transit stops in the neighborhood. Israeli forces responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke grenades.

The slaying of the Palestinian youth occurred one day after Israel buried the three teenagers — Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. They disappeared June 12 while hitchhiking home from their religious schools in the West Bank. Their bodies were discovered on Monday in a field near the city of Hebron, prompting a national outpouring of anger and grief.

Relatives of the Arab youth said he was abducted about 4 a.m. while waiting alone outside his home for the early-morning call to prayer. Bushra Abu Khieder, his aunt, said a surveillance camera at her husband's nearby store recorded the scene. Israeli police said they are reviewing the video footage.

Khieder's mother, Suha Abu Khieder, told reporters that her son has been “robbed from my lap.” Referring to the murdered Israeli teens, she said: “Their sons were important to them, just like my son is important to me.”

Netanyahu urged police to “swiftly investigate who was behind the loathsome murder and its motive” and called on all sides “not to take the law into their own hands.”

As the situation simmers, there is rising fear that the spiraling violence could be the spark that ignites a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation, just months after the collapse of the latest round of Mideast peace talks.

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