Tel Aviv: Three Israelis accused of kidnapping and burning to death a Palestinian teenager have reportedly confessed and re-enacted the murder for the authorities.
The three are among six people arrested for the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir last week, which investigators believe was carried out as a revenge killing for the death of three Israeli teenagers.
The mother of one of those accused, however, denied his involvement, telling the Ynet website: “We’re shattered and this thing is very difficult for us. My son has nothing to do with this and he will go free. This is crazy because he’s only 16.”
News of the reported confessions came as police struggled to contain five days of violent clashes in occupied east Jerusalem and in Arab towns across Israel that have plunged many areas into a toxic and fearful divide.
Tensions have been running high for weeks since the Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank.
Last week, hours after the Israeli teens were buried, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted from outside his home in east Jerusalem. His charred remains were found shortly afterwards in a Jerusalem forest. His death triggered days of violent protests in Arab areas of Jerusalem and northern Israel.
The crisis has also come against a background of increased tension on the Gaza border, which has seen weeks of increasing rocket fire into Israel and Israeli airforce airstrikes, the latest of which killed nine Palestinians, including seven members of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which vowed retaliation.
According to an IDF spokesman, the seven Hamas members were killed when they returned to a tunnel that had been attacked three days ago and accidentally detonated explosives in the tunnel. He added that two brigades on the Gaza border and 1,500 extra reserve troops had been put on notice of “preparedness for escalation” but said they had not been ordered to mobilise for an operation into Gaza.
He said several dozen rockets launched into Israel in the last 36 hours had largely been launched by Hamas rather than other factions. Amid the rising tensions, there has been growing anxiety among ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. Roads entering Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem from the West and centre are eerily quiet after days in which many have been closed. Police stand on footbridges and over passes. There are few Palestinians visible in the city centre. On social media and in meetings at schools, fearful parents of Jewish and Palestinian communities have discussed how to protect their children.
On Saturday evening after Shabbat, in Jerusalem’s central Zion Square, after a small peace rally, small groups of participants wandered off into the night to walk and keep watch in Palestinian neighbourhoods against incursions by rightwing Israeli groups.
Across Palestinian neighbourhoods of the city from Beit Hanina to the deep cut valley of Silwan, residents have formed neighbourhood watch groups, patrolling their streets and checking strangers cars.
At a community centre and youth group in Silwan Jawad Siyam, the centre’s director says not many people from his neighbourhood are going west of the green line. “I’m not really going. I went today to have a look around but I didn’t get out of the car. I didn’t see any Palestinians but I saw Jewish radicals walking around.
“Usually we leave the door of the centre open here all the time so people can access the kitchen but the first night settlers tried to come in and the police did nothing. Now ten of us stay up during the night and stay in the street till daylight.
“Because we have a park some parents come here from other neighbourhoods, but not since the murder of Abu Khdeir.”
The fear is not only in Jerusalem but in wider Israel itself. Israel-Arabs have been assaulted in public places, while Jewish cars in Arab towns have been attacked, individuals stoned.