Three out of the six Israeli suspects in the murder of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir have confessed to the crime, police said Monday.
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The teen's body was found in the Jerusalem Forest on Wednesday. The Israel Police had arrested six suspects over his death, it was revealed on Sunday after a gag order was partially lifted. Police suspected that the attack was likely carried out by Jewish extremists in revenge for the recent kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
The three suspects reenacted the crime, following the route of the car in which the Palestinian teen was kidnapped, which leads to the Jerusalem Forest.
According to Palestinian Attorney General Muhammad Abd al-Ghani Uweili, who was quoted by Ma'an News Agency citing a preliminary autopsy report, the teenager was burned alive.
Police are also investigating whether the six suspects were linked to the attempted kidnapping of 9-year-old Mussa Zalum, less than a day before Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed. Police arrived at the scene following the attempted kidnapping, but when the family declined an officer's request to file a formal complaint, the police dropped the case, Israel Police said Sunday.
Shortly before the police was to reveal further details of the investigation into Abu Khdeir's murder, the Petah Tikvah Magistrate's Court extended the gag order on most of the details, at the request of the Shin Bet, under whose custody the suspects are being held.
Five of the six suspects were ordered into the custody of the Shin Bet security service for eight days, while the sixth was remanded for five days.
The breakthrough in the Abu Khdeir murder case came over the past day, after the kidnappers’ car was located. Security cameras caught the vehicle on tape but not its license plate number. Early Sunday morning investigators went to the homes of two of the suspects and arrested them.
Rockets pound Israel
Roughly 30 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza on Sunday, 17 of them exploding in Israeli territory. No casualties or damage was reported. The Israel Defense Forces returned mortar fire at several targets throughout the Strip. In the wake of the increased rocketing, the security establishment has ordered that Palestinian fishermen will be permitted to fish only one nautical mile from the coast, down from the usual six.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported that the Israel Air Force attacked 10 targets in central and southern Gaza, including rocket-launching sites and weapons production-facilities. “The IDF is prepared and ready to defend Israeli civilians from any threat and will continue to act steadfastly in order to restore peace and routine life,” read the IDF Spokesperson’s statement. Palestinian sources reported that the attacks hit targets east of Khan Younis and north of Rafah in southern Gaza. No casualties were reported.
Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino visited Sderot on Sunday, and held a briefing with heads of local authorities. “This area has endured many fierce attacks during the last ten years. We thought we were headed toward a quiet period, but lately there has been an escalation, with an increase in launches. I am impressed with the resilience and the abilities of the residents and police officers here. These days are not easy, and the country has endured a great deal, disturbances throughout the country, including explosives, stones and firebombs, harming civilians and police officers. We will not allow these disturbances to disrupt our lives.”
Chaim Yellin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, said, “Rockets continue to explode over homes in the Gaza area, and the situation is legally defined as ‘routine.’ The security cabinet refuses to make clear decisions, and is leaving the residents without help. This is routine? As 20 rockets fall each day, the government is willing to accept it, and we’re expected to raise our children like this?”
Yellin said the number of callers per day to a local hotline is higher than it was during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Cast Lead in 2009. “There is a great difference between the definition of the situation and the reality we’re experiencing, as each day rockets fall on our homes and cause damage and fear,” he said. “This ongoing uncertainty is testing our resilience, security, and our faith in government institutions. Without leadership, we find ourselves having to make decisions independently. The Eshkol Council has decided to hold an emergency meeting and declare emergency status in order to provide proper care for residents. We demand that the government define the situation as ‘an extreme situation in the home front,’ and all that entails.”
Also Sunday, three Palestinians with work permits were attacked in Hadera by anonymous individuals who fled the scene. One of the workers was lightly injured. Anonymous vandals also sprayed swastikas at the entrance to Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev. Israel Police arrested two 20-year-olds from the Bedouin village of Bir Hadj in the northern Negev on suspicion of throwing stones and burning tires in the Ramat Hanegev regional council area.
Nir Hasson, Chaim Levinson, Shirley Seidler, Gili Cohen, Eli Ashkenazi and Jack Khoury contributed to this report.