The Israeli military rushed additional forces to its southern border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, vowing to halt a growing wave of rocket fire from the Palestinian territory, while new clashes erupted in east Jerusalem in response to the death of an Arab boy who Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists.
Israel said the show of force on the Gaza border was a defense measure. But persistent rocket fire raised the prospects of a tough Israeli response, with the military saying more than 40 rockets or mortar shells were fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza on Thursday.
Tensions have been high since three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a massive manhunt that ended with the discovery of their bodies early this week. Israel has blamed Hamas for the abductions and launched a crackdown on the Islamic militant group in the West Bank, drawing rocket attacks out of Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in a near-daily cycle of retaliation.
The situation deteriorated further Wednesday after the burned body of a Palestinian youth, whose identity was confirmed Thursday as Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was found in a forest after he was seized near his home in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing the teen in a revenge attack over the deaths of the Israeli youths.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried Thursday to calm the situation, condemning Abu Khdeir’s killing and vowing to find the attackers.
“We don’t know yet the motives or the identities of the perpetrators, but we will. We will bring to justice the criminals responsible for this despicable crime whoever they may be,” Netanyahu said in a speech celebrating U.S. Independence Day at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. “Murder, riots, incitement, vigilantism, they have no place in our democracy.”