Five border police officers were lightly injured in the riots. Two of the injured officers were evacuated to hospital while the others were treated at the scene.
Palestinian sources reported that some fifty people were injured in the clashes. A paramedic for the Red Cross Raji Al-Hurain said that thirty seven Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and that seventeen of the injured required hospitilization.
Mohammad Abu Kheider’s partially burned corpse was discovered by officers hours after residents of the nearby upscale Arab community of Beit Hanina notified police of witnessing a young man being forced into a black vehicle late Tuesday night.
The murder took place after scores of Israeli right-wing protesters embroiled much of downtown Jerusalem Tuesday, rioting and demanding revenge for the murders of yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel, who were buried earlier that afternoon.
The protracted riot resulted in over 50 arrests, after hundreds of young extremists marched for several kilometers throughout the downtown area, including to the Old City, while chanting anti-Arab slogans and attacking several Palestinians in their path.
While Arab leaders are condemning the homicide as revenge, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said all possible angles are being investigated.
“We are investigating whether it was nationalistically motivated or criminal right now,” he said. “Police forensics teams are examining the body and the area of the forest where it was found to search for evidence of who may have done this.”
Though the cause of death remains unknown, Rosenfeld said the boy’s body sustained significant burn marks. The spokesman added that police are also investigating previous kidnap attempts of members of the family to which the victim belonged, stemming from a personal dispute.
“It is possible this is a personal or family-related incident,” he said. “We are not ruling anything out.”
Despite the police’s contention that the murder may not have been nationalistically motivated, East Jerusalem Portfolio head Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz) said there is no question as to the motivation behind it.
“It’s clear that it’s revenge,” he said by phone. “It’s a political and terrorist action carried out by the right wing.”
As word spread in the media of the murder, Rosenfeld said rioting ensued in Shuafat and Beit Hanaina, with significant damage being reported to three Light Rail stations, forcing police to close roads to both neighborhoods and suspend the train service.
As of 11 a.m., dozens of police units were dispatched into the areas, where pipe bombs have been reportedly detonated. Police said the Arab rioting also engulfed the Temple Mount, which was subsequently closed to the public.
Rosenfeld said police responded with non-lethal force, including tear gas and stun grenades, to disperse the crowds. No arrests or serious injuries have been reported, he said.
After the teenager’s family identified the corpse, Dmitry Diliani, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority, accused the Israeli government of complicity in the murder.
“The Israeli government bears responsibility for Jewish terrorism and for the kidnapping and murder in occupied Jerusalem,” Diliani said to Reuters.
Meanwhile, less than 24-hours after burying their son Naftali, the Fraenkel family issued a statement saying it would be “horrifying and despicable” if the Arab youth was killed due to nationalistic motives to avenge the murders of the three murdered yeshiva students.
“There is no difference between blood and blood, murder is murder,” read the statement from the bereaved family, who said they patently condemned murder in any form.
In a statement issued by the Jerusalem Municipality Wednesday morning, Mayor Nir Barkat also condemned the “horrible and barbaric murder.”
“This is not our way, and I am fully confident that our security forces will bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said. “I call on everyone to exercise restraint.”
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel also came out harshly against the killing of the youth.
“The murder of a young man and burning his body is a disgusting act,” he said in a statement. “I hope the police use all means to find the murderers as quickly as possible and to brings them to justice.”