Reports are emerging that Israel is sending troops to the border with Gaza. It is not known at this time if this will be part of a larger operation. This news comes in the wake of days of violence in the region. Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza Thursday and fighters hit back with 14 rockets, further hiking tensions after a day of violence triggered by the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.
Two houses in the southern Israeli border town of Sderot were reportedly hit causing material damage, but no injuries. Overnight, the Israeli air force staged 15 stikes on “Hamas targets”, wounding 11 people, according to Palestinian medics. The Israeli strike reportedly came in response to rockets fired from Gaza earlier on Wednesday.
Despite the rocket exchange, there was no immediate sign of a return to the clashes – some of the most violent seen in the streets over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years – that engulfed East Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The violence came in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in what many believed was a copycat killing following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month.
Abu Khdeir’s funeral and a procession in his Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem was meant to be held earlier on Thursday, after Israeli authorities release his body to his family following an autopsy, but has now been delayed until this is completed.
Clashes raged between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli riot police from dawn on Wednesday until the early hours of the next day, also spreading to many other areas in East Jerusalem.
The violence injured 232 people, 178 of them in Shuafat alone, said Dr Amin Abu Ghazali, head of field operations for the Red Crescent in east Jerusalem.
Of that number 187, were wounded by rubber bullets and six by live bullets, he told AFP.
Abu Khdeir’s killing was roundly denounced on all sides, both at home and abroad.
Members of both his and one of the kidnapped Israeli’s families condemned the violence that has ensued this week.
Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, called for people on “both sides to stop the bloodshed”.
Yishasi Frenkel, uncle of murdered Israeli teenager Naftali Frankel, told YNet News: “If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives then this is a horrible and horrendous act. There is no difference between (Arab) blood and (Jewish) blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as “despicable” and urged both sides “not to take the law into their own hands”.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas demanded Netanyahu take decisive action against revenge attacks and called for the killers to be caught and punished.
But the Islamist Hamas movement, whom Israel has blamed for the kidnap and murder of the three teenagers in June without detailed proof or public explanation, said it held Netanyahus’ government directly responsible.
“You will pay the price for your crimes,” it said.
In Jerusalem, police threw up a security cordon around Shuafat, fearing another outburst of violence after the results of the autopsy, which was due to be completed by mid-afternoon. No time has yet been set for the funeral.
Muhannad Jbara, lawyer for the Abu Khdeir family, said the police had been in touch late on Wednesday to formally confirm the body found in a west Jerusalem forest was that of their son.
“The body was so badly burned that it was beyond recognition,” he said.
Eyewitnesses told AFP the youngster was forced into a black Honda Civic by “two Israelis” with a third sitting in the driving seat, which drove off at high speed, evading two cars which tried to follow it.
They said the car’s registration number had been given to the police, who had also been examining footage from CCTV cameras in the neighborhood.
The killing drew condemnation from capitals around the world, including from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said the abduction and murder of civilians “must stop now”.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for justice over the “despicable act,” while joining British Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Committee of the Red Cross in condemning the killing.
“At this critical time, the ICRC calls on all sides to stand unequivocally against the abduction and murder of civilians,” said Red Cross president Peter Maurer. “The current spiral of violence, loss and suffering must stop now.”
Spiral of Violence
Tensions have soared across the region since 12 June when three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the southern West Bank, triggering a vast search and arrest operation across the West Bank.
Their bodies were found on Monday, but the hunt for their killers continues, with troops arresting another 13 Palestinians overnight, the army said.
The weeks-long Israeli army operation has seen more than 2,100 Palestinian-owned buildings searched, at least 566 Palestinians arrested and six Palestinians killed.
After the three teenagers were buried on Tuesday, more than 200 Israelis rampaged through Jerusalem, dragging people out of cars and chanting “Death to Arabs”. The mob attacks were followed Wednesday with clashes between Palestinians and Israeli riot police in Shuafat.
A Facebook page, called “The people of Israel demand revenge”, attracted 35,000 people this week, Haaretz reported. The page featured a photograph of two teenage girls smiling, embracing each other and holding a piece of paper saying, “Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values.” The page was reportedly taken down.
(Middle East Eye – www.middleeasteye.net)