Middle East

Israel urges calm after Palestinian teenager's body found

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Christian Fraser on the "front line" in East Jerusalem

Israeli leaders have appealed for calm after the discovery of a kidnapped Palestinian teenager's body sparked clashes in East Jerusalem.

Mohammed Abu Khdair, 17, was seen being forced into a car early on Wednesday.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the "despicable murder" and the mayor of Jerusalem urged restraint.

Palestinian leaders said they held Israel responsible for the killing, amid claims it was in revenge for the murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Agence France-Presse quoted the militant group Hamas as telling Israeli leaders: "Our people will not let this crime pass... You will pay the price for these crimes."

The BBC's Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says the Palestinian teenager's funeral is now expected to take place on Thursday and will be another cause for tension.

'Law-abiding state'

Israeli police are still investigating the possible motives for the death.

Mr Netanyahu said he had ordered police to work "as quickly as possible to find out who was behind the heinous murder of the youth" and called on both sides "not to take the law into their own hands".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Violence erupted in Shufat, East Jerusalem, after the body was discovered
Image copyright AP
Image caption There were also early morning clashes in Jenin in the West Bank

"Israel is a law-abiding state and everyone is obliged to act according to it," he said.

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat also denounced the murder, urging all to "exercise restraint".

"This is a horrible and barbaric act which I strongly condemn," he said.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch urged patience as the investigation was carried out.

The US condemned the killing. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a series of tweets it was a "heinous murder" and that the "perpetrators must be brought to justice".

Secretary of State John Kerry's statement said "there are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people".

The family of one of the three murdered Israeli teenagers also issued a statement condemning the latest killing.

"If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives then this is a horrible and horrendous act," the statement from the family of Naftali Frenkel said.

Analysis: Yolande Knell, BBC News, Jerusalem

The Israeli police insist they are taking the case of Mohammed Abu Khdair seriously and that a thorough investigation is under way. They said they began a search for him as soon as he was reported missing.

Most Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have already made their minds up about the motivation for the murder.

Tensions are now set to rise again particularly with a funeral expected to take place on Thursday. Locals say they are worried this death could trigger a new cycle of violence.

Tensions simmer in East Jerusalem

"There is no difference between Arab blood and Jewish blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement: "I demand the Israeli government punish the killers if it wants peace between the Palestinian and Israeli people".

Mr Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said in a separate statement that Israel was "fully responsible for the killing of the teenager".

Clashes erupted outside the teenager's home in the Arab district of Shufat in East Jerusalem after news broke of the discovery of the body.

Protesters threw stones at officers, who responded by firing sound bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets.

At least 35 people were injured by the rubber bullets, reports said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The violence comes a day after funerals were held in the West Bank for the three murdered Israeli teenagers
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The abductions of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach sparked a massive search operation

Scores of Israelis had angrily protested in Jerusalem late on Tuesday, after the funerals of the three Israeli teenagers.

Ghonit Sela, director of the Human Rights in East Jerusalem Project, told the BBC further attacks were feared.

"We saw dozens of people walking in broad daylight in the streets, yelling 'death to Arabs', trying to attack Arabs.

"I know my Palestinian friends today are not taking public transportation, they're afraid of what would happen. I also know that myself and my Jewish friends would be scared to go today into a Palestinian neighbourhood."

The uncle of the kidnapped Palestinian teenager confirmed that the body found in a forest near Givat Shaul, in the western outskirts of Jerusalem, was Mohammed Abu Khdair's.

The body was partly burned and bore marks of violence.

Witnesses said Mohammed Abu Khdair was abducted near his father's shop in Shufat.

A relative said he saw two men approach the boy and ask for directions before bundling him into a car.

"While they were speaking to him, a car approached in which there was a third man," Saeed Abu Khudair told the Reuters news agency. "Two of them carried him. He was small so he couldn't resist.

"Some men who were nearby saw what happened. They chased after the kidnappers' car, but they couldn't catch it."

The killing comes a day after funerals were held in the West Bank for the three Jewish seminary students whose bodies were found near the city of Hebron on Monday, two-and-a-half weeks after they were abducted.