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US Condemns Killing of Palestinian Teen

  • VOA News

Secretary of State John Kerry has strongly condemned what he termed the "despicable and senseless abduction and murder" of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a teenager who Palestinian residents suspect was kidnapped and killed in revenge for the deaths of three Israeli teens.

The Israeli youths were abducted June 12 while on their way home from school in the West Bank. Hostilities, simmering ever since, flared when their bodies were discovered Monday near Hebron.

The State Department, which had forcefully decried the Israeli teens' abduction, denounced the actions again Khdeir. The Arab teen's body was found early Wednesday morning in a wooded area near Jerusalem.

Authorities had received calls hours earlier that a Palestinian youth outside a mosque was forced into a car in an Arab section of the city. News accounts have differed on whether Khdeir was 16 or 17.

"It is sickening to think of an innocent 17-year-old boy snatched off the streets and his life stolen from him and his family," Kerry's statement said. "There are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday the U.S. has no assessment yet of whether killing was revenge and urged all sides to behave responsibly.

"We look to both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent acts of violence and bring their perpetrators to justice," the statement said, adding that "violence only leads to more violence."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging all sides not to take the law into their own hands and called for a swift investigation into the abduction of the Palestinian teenager.

Police have yet to confirm that the body found is that of Mohammed Abu Khudair. But witnesses say they saw several Israelis forcing him into a car in East Jerusalem before speeding off.

Netanyahu said he has asked law enforcement to find out who was behind the "reprehensible murder."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for Netanyahu to condemn the killing, just as he did in the case of the Israeli teens.

Clashes erupt

The discovery of Khdeir's body sparked new outrage, with several hundred Palestinians protesting in East Jerusalem. They threw stones as they clashed with Israeli security forces, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Israeli police said the abduction may have been a revenge killing by Jews or a criminal act, such as a feud between Arab clans.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino urged the public not to draw conclusions and to act with restraint.

There were also smaller-scale clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin after Israeli forces raided the area.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of people gathered in central Israel for the burial of the three Israeli teenagers. Israeli leaders have accused Hamas of abducting and killing the three and vowed to punish the militant group.

Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied Israel's allegations about its role in the disappearance of the students.

Authorities arrested hundreds of Hamas members while searching for the teens.

Robert Berger contributed to this report from Jerusalem.

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