The three Israelis who are the main suspects in the brutal murder of an Arab teenager on 2 July that ignited the worst unrest in Jerusalem in years have confessed to dousing their 16 year old victim with petrol and burning him alive, police said today.
Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found burned to death after disappearing on 2 July. Forensic analysis of his remains suggested he was still alive when he was set alight.
Israeli public attention to the 16-year-old’s murder has been diverted by the Israel-Gaza fighting that has so far killed more than 170 Palestinians, but it remains an explosive issue for Palestinians.
A 29-year old man and two 17 year old males whose arrests were announced last week, “have admitted to carrying out the murder and have re-enacted the murder,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Police believe the killing was revenge for the murder of three Israeli teenagers abducted while hitchhiking near a West Bank settlement. They were buried the evening before Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted prior to mosque prayers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. “They have admitted they poured petrol on him and burned him alive.” Mr Rosenfeld said.
“They live at the fringe of society and aren’t functioning individuals,” a source close to the younger suspects told Haaretz newspaper, which said they were expected to claim temporary insanity as a defence.
Israeli media speculated that the arrested men were already well known to the police and were linked to hooligans who support Beitar Jerusalem football club.
Some Beitar fans in La Familia are renowned for their hatred of Palestinians and have forced the club to reject the signing of Muslim players.
Police are investigating three others for involvement in the killing and they remain under house arrest.
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Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, was not consoled by the arrests.
“I don’t have any peace in my heart, even if they captured who they say killed my son,” she said.
“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.”
Abu Khdeir’s cousin, Tariq Abu Khdeir, was filmed being beaten by Israeli police following a protest in East Jerusalem.
The 15-year-old, who is an American citizen from Florida, was seen with a bruised and swollen face after he was bailed, prompting calls for an investigation by the US.
Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftal Frenkel, 16, were abducted while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank on 12 June.
Their bodies were not found until nearly three weeks later, buried in a shallow grave in field to the west of Hebron, after hundreds of Palestinians were arrested and several shot dead by Israeli troops conducting searches.
Additional reporting by PA