Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and murdered on Wednesday in a suspected revenge killing by Israeli extremists, was reportedly burned alive after suffering a head injury.
The claim, made by the Palestinian attorney general, is said to be based on initial postmortem findings which discovered soot deposits in his lungs suggesting he was still breathing when he was set on fire. The shocking details, if confirmed, would seem likely to exacerbate already toxic tensions.
The reports emerged as Egypt brokered efforts to conclude a ceasefire deal between Hamas in Gaza and Israel that appeared not to have taken hold, with fresh reports of rocket fire from the coastal strip.
The murder of 17-year-old Khdeir, who was buried on Friday in a highly charged funeral after his abduction outside a mosque next to his home in the early hours of Wednesday morning, has prompted days of serious rioting in Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, which then spread to Israeli-Arab towns in the “triangle”.
“The direct cause of death was burns as a result of fire and its complications,” attorney general Mohammed al-A’wewy told Palestinian official news agency Wafa, late on Friday. Israeli officials have yet to release their findings from the postmortem on the body.
Tensions have risen after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on 12 June and later found dead in the occupied West Bank. That has been followed by a rash of racist incitement on Israeli social media sites, street attacks and Khdeir’s murder, a suspected revenge attack.
Saber al-Aloul, director of the Palestinian forensic institute, attended the postmortem carried out by Israeli doctors in Tel Aviv. A’wewy said Aloul had reported that fire-dust material had been found in Khdeir’s respiratory canal, which meant “the boy had inhaled this material while he was burned alive”. Burns covered 90% of his body.
The discovery of the boy’s body in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem has prompted the worst riots in the holy city in recent memory. The violence spread to northern Arab towns on Saturday morning, an Israeli police spokeswoman, Luba Samri, said. Protesters there threw stones at passing cars, burned tires and hurled fire bombs at police, who responded with teargas and stun grenades. More than 20 people were arrested.
At Khdeir’s funeral, furious Palestinians chanted “Intifada! Intifada!”, calling for a new uprising against Israel. They clashed with Israeli police in one of the most highly charged displays of enmity in Jerusalem in years.
Clashes continued across the occupied West Bank overnight, with at least one Palestinian hurt in the city of Nablus, medical staff said. Palestinian officials trying to calm tensions have said they would prevent any intifada, or uprising, and seek a solution to the crisis that began when the three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped.
The discovery of the young Israelis’ bodies on Monday prompted an outpouring of national grief in Israel.
In a separate incident, it emerged that Abu Khdeir’s 15-year-old cousin, Tariq, a US citizen who goes to school in Florida, was beaten by police during clashes on Thursday ahead of the funeral. The American Consulate had no immediate comment on the report. His parents, Suha and Salah, said Tariq was detained but had been treated at an Israeli hospital.
Samri said Tariq had resisted arrest and attacked police. He was detained with a slingshot in his possession used to hurl stones at police, along with six other protesters, including some armed with knives, she said, adding that several officers were hurt in that specific protest, one of many that day. Tariq’s father said he witnessed his son’s arrest and insisted that the boy was not involved in the violence.