Dozens of Israeli Arabs also held as protests spread
Israeli police have arrested a group of Jewish extremists in connection with the kidnap and murder of a Palestinian teenager in east Jerusalem, an Israeli official said on Sunday.
“Apparently the people arrested in relation to the case belong to an extremist Jewish group,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, shortly after the website of the Haaretz newspaper reported six arrests in connection with the case.
The kidnap and murder on Wednesday sparked four straight days of riots which began in annexed Arab east Jerusalem but on Saturday spread to more than half a dozen Arab towns in Israel.
Details of the case have been subjected to a strict gag order.
Earlier, police acknowledged for the first time there were “indications that the background to the killing was nationalistic.”
It followed days of growing suspicion that Wednesday’s murder was carried out by extremist Jews in revenge for last month’s abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli police have also arrested dozens of people protesting against the 16-year-old boy, who was shown in an autopsy to have been burned alive in what many Palestinians believe was a revenge killing by Jewish extremists after the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank last month.
“Around 35 people were arrested overnight, almost half of them minors,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
Of those, 22 were arrested in and around the northern city of Nazareth, the most populous Arab town in Israel.
The rest were arrested in Taibe in the north and the Triangle region around Umm el Fahm, an Islamist stronghold northeast of Tel Aviv, where clashes continued into Sunday, Samri added.
“We are demonstrating against this incitement to hatred by Israelis online, who are saying ‘death to Arabs’,” one demonstrator in the Triangle town of Qalansuwa told army radio.
Palestinian-American teen badly beaten
Israel police confirmed they had opened an internal investigation into allegations of police brutality following the publication of a video showing border police beating a handcuffed detainee.
The video was released as news emerged that a 15-year-old Palestinian with US citizenship had been badly beaten while in police custody in east Jerusalem, triggering condemnation from the US State Department.
He was due to appear in court on Sunday morning. The latest round of violence began on June 12 with the kidnap and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers in an attack Israel blamed on Hamas.
The kidnapping triggered a major army crackdown on the West Bank, with more than 400 Palestinians arrested, two-thirds of them Hamas members, and six people killed in clashes sparked by the arrests.
Two days after their bodies were found, a Palestinian of similar age from east Jerusalem was kidnapped and killed, sparking clashes which on Saturday spread to Israeli Arab towns.
Tensions have also been high in and around Gaza, where Hamas has its stronghold, with militants responding to the West Bank crackdown with rocket fire on southern Israel.
The military, meanwhile, carried out 10 air strikes on Gaza in response to persistent rocket fire into southern Israel as hopes faded of a renewed truce with the Hamas.
The air force has hit back with almost nightly strikes, which have killed three Palestinian militants so far.
On Saturday, militants fired 15 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, two of which targeted the southern city of Beersheva some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Palestinian territory, police said.
It was the first time the city had been targeted since the army’s last major operation in Gaza, named Pillar of Defense, in November 2012.
The air force responded with new strikes early on Sunday, none of which caused casualties.
“Following constant rocket fire at Israeli communities in the south, IAF (Israel Air Force) aircraft targeted 10 terror sites in the central and southern Gaza Strip, including concealed rocket launchers and a weapon manufacturing facility,” a statement said.
Also on Sunday, the army said it had arrested a Palestinian in the flashpoint southern West Bank city of Hebron, whom the Israeli media suggested was somehow linked to the kidnap and murder of the three teenagers.
Israel has named two Hamas militants from Hebron as the prime suspects — Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe. Both remain at large.