Conflict & Justice

Warplanes and rocket fire are flying between Israel and Gaza after teen killings


A Palestinian man inspects damage after overnight Israeli air strikes on July 3, 2014 in Gaza City.


Mohammad Abed

Israel deployed extra forces to its border with Gaza on Thursday after continued Palestinian rocket fire and heightened tensions following the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

"We are moving and we have moved forces in order to serve defense activities and forward preparation, but we have no interest in escalation," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told journalists.

The reinforcements were reserve officers at "headquarter level, not in the field," Lerner said, and were a purely defensive measure.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz sent a similar message in comments tweeted by the army.

"We are looking for calm, not escalation, but if Hamas chooses to act against us we shall be ready," he said.

Israeli warplanes pounded targets inside the Gaza Strip on Thursday and militants hit back with 16 rockets.

In east Jerusalem's Shuafat neighborhood, masked Palestinians hurled stones and fireworks at Israeli police and sent burning car tyres rolling along streets in a second day of protest over the kidnap and murder of local 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder.

Many believe his was a copycat killing following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month.

More from GlobalPost: Days after 3 Israeli teens disappeared, a family struggles to cope

Israel police say the motive for the Abu Khder's killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.

But the family's lawyer told AFP the boy's body had been burnt "beyond recognition."

It was not known when he would be buried.

In clashes on Wednesday, 232 Palestinians were injured, 178 of them in Shuafat alone, said Dr. Amin Abu Ghazali of the Red Crescent in east Jerusalem.

Of that number, 187 were wounded by rubber bullets and six by live ammunition, he told AFP.

Gaza rockets, Israeli raids

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Abu Khder's killing as "despicable" and urged both sides "not to take the law into their own hands."

One of the families of the three murdered Israeli teens described it as a "horrendous act."

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded that Netanyahu act against revenge attacks and called for Abu Khder's killers to be caught and punished.

Four Israeli soldiers who allegedly used social media to call for revenge and to "annihilate terrorists" were jailed for 10 days by the military.

But the Islamist Hamas movement, whom Israel has blamed for the kidnap and murder of the three teenagers in June, said it held Netanyahu's government directly responsible for the killing of Abu Khder.

"You will pay the price for your crimes," it said.

Gaza militants fired 20 rockets at southern Israel on Wednesday, one of which hit a house in Sderot, the army said. No-one was injured.

The army said another 16 rockets had hit the Israeli south since midnight, one of which struck a second house in Sderot.

Overnight, the Israeli air force staged 15 strikes on "Hamas targets," among them concealed rocket launchers, weapons storage facilities and militant activity sites, a statement said.

Palestinian medics said 11 people were wounded, one of them seriously.

Funeral unrest fears

In Jerusalem, police threw up a security cordon around Shuafat, fearing more violence after the results of the autopsy on Abu Khder, expected later in the day.

Muhannad Jbara, lawyer for his family, said the police had been in touch late on Wednesday to formally confirm that the body found in a west Jerusalem forest was that of their son.

Witnesses told AFP the youngster was forced into a black Honda Civic by "two Israelis" with a third in the driving seat. It then drove off at high speed, evading two cars which tried to follow.

The killing drew condemnation from 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."

Tensions have soared across the region since June 12 when the three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank, triggering a vast search and arrest operation across the territory.

Their bodies were found on Monday, but the hunt for the killers continues, with troops arresting another 13 Palestinians overnight, the army said.

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