JERUSALEM – The Israel police have arrested six Jewish suspects in the murder of an Arab teenager, according to several Israeli media outlets.
The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel were among news organizations reporting on the arrests.
The murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, whose charred body was discovered in a Jerusalem forest Wednesday morning, has sparked widespread Arab rioting in several parts of Israel.
Palestinians have insisted all along that the abduction and murder of Abu Khadeir was carried out by far-right-wing Israeli nationalists in revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens. Israeli police said they were exploring all possibilities, from an act by Jewish extremists to a Palestinian honor killing.
Palestinian Attorney General Muhammad Abd al-Ghani Uweili said Saturday that a preliminary autopsy of Abu Khdeir’s body revealed that he had breathed in smoke – proof that he was alive when his body was set on fire.
Israeli police are expected to release additional details of the arrests in the coming hours.
Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted last week and his charred body found a short while later in a Jerusalem forest.
Mohammed’s cousin, a 15-year-old Palestinian-American, was injured during clashes with Israeli security forces last week. On Sunday, he was sentenced to nine days of house arrest.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said a Jerusalem court ordered Tariq Abu Khdeir to remain at home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.
Tariq’s family says he was severely beaten by Israeli police during protests in Jerusalem last week. The incident is under investigation.
Tariq, who goes to school in Florida, is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Tariq’s parents said.
Also Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would act calmly and responsibly in the face of rising Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, just hours after Israel’s military carried out airstrikes on 10 sites in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli airstrikes targeted what the army said were militant sites including rocket launchers and a weapons manufacturing site, following at least 29 other rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel over the weekend.
Two of those rockets were aimed at Beersheba, a southern city deeper into Israel than any other attack in the current round of violence. The military said its “Iron Dome” defense system intercepted the two rockets.
Tensions have been high since the three Israeli teens were abducted on June 12. The Israelis blamed Hamas for their killings and launched a major crackdown against the Islamic militant group.
Protests spread over the weekend from Jerusalem to Arab towns in northern Israel, with hundreds of people throwing rocks and fire bombs at officers who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, according to Israeli police. Samri said 22 Arab Israelis were arrested in clashes on Saturday.
Israeli Arabs, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hold citizenship rights. But they often face discrimination and many identify with the Palestinians. Even so, violent riots like those that occurred on Saturday are rare.
Clashes mostly subsided by early Sunday, but the situation remained tense. Samri said a Jewish woman was attacked and lightly wounded early Sunday by a group of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City. Her husband fired his weapon and the attackers fled, and police were searching for them, Samri said.
Tariq’s parents, Suha and Salah, said Tariq was the last person with Mohammed shortly before he was seized. They said Tariq left Mohammed to eat before the Ramadan fast began at dawn Wednesday, and Mohammed was seized shortly afterward.
Police said Tariq resisted arrest, attacked officers, and was captured with a slingshot for lobbing stones.
His face was masked in a keffiyeh, an Arab headscarf that some Palestinian protesters wore during the clashes to conceal their identity, police added. He was detained along with six other protesters, police said, including some armed with knives, adding that several officers were hurt in that specific protest, one of many that day.
Amateur video of what Tariq’s father Salah said was the beating aired on a local television station, and he said he could recognize his son from his clothing.
The U.S. State Department said it was “profoundly troubled” by reports of his beating and demanded an investigation. Israel’s Justice Ministry quickly launched a formal investigation.
In the West Bank, the army arrested a Palestinian in the city of Hebron. His family identified him as Hossam Dufesh. The army would not elaborate on the arrest, but Israeli forces have concentrated its search for the killers of three Israeli teens in the Hebron area.
Contributing: Associated Press