Three of the six young Jewish extremists arrested in the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem last week have confessed and reenacted the crime, an Israeli official said Monday.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to a gag order barring police from disclosing any details of the investigation, including the suspects’ identities, would not confirm media reports that the suspects are from the same family.
“They took police to the place he was killed and showed them how they did it,” the official said.
The 16-year-old’s badly burned corpse was discovered in the Jerusalem Forest on Wednesday, about one hour after his abduction from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina was reported.
According to an autopsy, more than 90% of Abu Khdeir’s body sustained burns. Additionally, fire-dust residue was found in his respiratory canal, indicating he inhaled this material while he was “burned alive,” the report concluded.
News of the murder set off a chain of riots in east Jerusalem. Many Palestinians contend Abu Khdeir was the victim of Jewish extremists incensed at the discovery last week of the remains of the three abducted Jewish teens.
The ensuing violence also marred Abu Khdeir’s Friday funeral, including the arrest of his American cousin, who was filmed allegedly being viciously beaten by two officers on Thursday.
Since their arrests, the six suspects – between the ages of 16 and 22 and from Beit Shemesh and the West Bank settlement Adam – have been refused legal representation as Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agents continue to interrogate them.
Meanwhile, police said the gag order would not be lifted until the investigation is concluded.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres phoned Hussein Abu Khdeir on Monday to express shock and sorrow at the murder of his son, Muhammad, by Jews.
“I would like to express my outrage and that of the citizens of Israel over the reprehensible murder of your son,” he said, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“We acted immediately afterward to locate the murderers, and they will be brought to justice,” he said. “We acted immediately to apprehend the murderers. We will bring them to trial and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
We denounce all brutal behavior; the murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being.”
One government official said Netanyahu felt it was important to call the family and send a “personal message of consolation,” and also send the message that “the killers do not represent Israel or the Israeli people, and that their actions are totally contradictory to our most core values.”
Peres said he was “full of shame” at the murder.
“The only thing left for all of us to do is to ensure that no more children are murdered, and no more tears are shed by mothers,” he said.
According to the president’s office, Abu Khdeir thanked Peres for his words and “expressed his wish for justice and peace.”
Also, on Monday, the Fraenkel family issued its second statement against the murder.
“Even in the abyss of mourning for Gil-Ad, Eyal and Naftali, it is difficult for me to describe how distressed we are by the outrage committed in Jerusalem – the shedding of innocent blood in defiance of all morality, of the Torah, of the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in this country,” Rachel Fraenkel told reporters.
She spoke at the end of the shiva period for her son Naftali, 16, who along with Gil-Ad Shaer, 16 and Eyal Yifrah, 19, was killed on June 12 after being abducted from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion. Their bodies were found 18 days later under a pile of rocks in a field outside of Hebron.
Last Wednesday, just one day after the funerals of the three boys, Abu Khdeir was abducted.
Almost immediately, Naftali’s uncle, Yishai, denounced Muhammad’s murder.
On Monday, Naftali’s mother, Rachel added, “Only the murderers of our sons, along with those who sent them and those who helped them and incited them to murder – and not innocent people – will be brought to justice; by the army, the police and the judiciary, not by vigilantes.
“No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Muhammad’s parents.
“The legacy of Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal is one of love, of humanity, national unity and of integrity.
“Alongside the pain of this terrible act, we take pride in our country’s zeal to investigate, to arrest the criminals and to stop the horror, and we hope that calm will return to the streets of our country,” she said.