Israel arrested six Jewish suspects Sunday in the grisly slaying of a Palestinian teenager who was abducted and burned alive last week — a crime that set off a wave of violent protests in Arab sections of the country.
Leaders of the Jewish state appealed for calm amid signs the death was revenge for the recent killings of three Israeli teenagers.
“We will not allow extremists, it doesn’t matter from which side, to inflame the region and cause bloodshed,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. “Murder is murder, incitement is incitement, and we will respond aggressively to both.”
He promised to prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.
The region has been on edge since three Israeli teens — one of them a U.S. citizen — were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank last month. Last week, the teens’ bodies were found in a West Bank field in a crime Israel blamed on the militant group Hamas.
Just hours after the youths were buried, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem, was abducted near his home, and his charred remains were found shortly afterward in a Jerusalem forest. Preliminary autopsy results found he was still alive when he was set on fire.
Palestinians immediately accused Israeli extremists of killing the youth in revenge. And on Sunday, Israeli authorities said the killers had acted out of “nationalistic” motives.
The suspects remained in custody and were being interrogated, authorities said.
An Israeli official said there were six suspects and described them as young males, including several minors, all of whom lived in the Jerusalem area. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.
He said police had located a car used by the suspects. During the investigation, he said, police learned of an attempted kidnapping the previous day of a child in the same neighborhood and concluded the cases were linked.
Israeli TV showed pictures of the 9-year-old boy with red marks around his neck.
Abu Khdeir’s family said that the arrests brought them little joy and that they had little faith in the Israeli justice system.
“I don’t have any peace in my heart, even if they captured who they say killed my son,” said his mother. “They’re only going to ask them questions and then release them. What’s the point?”
She added: “They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do it to our children.”