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Israel's Netanyahu says he's shocked over Palestinian teen's 'abhorrent' murder


By Kareem Khadder, Ben Wedeman and Jethro Mullen

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday spoke with the father of the Palestinian teenager who was burned alive in Jerusalem last week, expressing shock at what he called an "abhorrent" murder.

As anger continues to boil over the killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khedair, Netanyahu spoke by phone with the father, Hussein Abu Khedair, telling him that the killers will be brought to trial and "will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law."

The teen's father told CNN later Monday that he did not recall speaking with Netanyahu.

"I was up all night and did not sleep at all," Hussein Abu Khedair said. He said he had spoken with a lot of people, but did not remember if Netanyahu was among them.

Police have arrested several Israeli Jewish suspects in connection with the teen's death. They said there was a "strong indication" that the attackers may have been motivated by a desire for revenge over the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found a week ago in a field in the West Bank.

And Israeli police announced Sunday a confession in the killing of an Israeli Jewish teen a month ago. Shelly Dadon, 19, was kidnapped and stabbed to death by an Arab taxi driver, who has now provided details of the killing, Israeli officials said.

In a region that has experienced decades of fighting and mistrust, the past week's events have still managed to shock -- and to further embitter relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being," Netanyahu told the teen's father, according to the prime minister's office.

'Attacked by police'

The family is also irate over the treatment by Israeli police of one of the victim's cousins, an American high school student.

Relatives say Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old high school sophomore from Florida, was brutally beaten while being detained amid protests over his cousin's death.

Khdeir, who was in Jerusalem to visit family during his summer vacation, was released on bail Sunday and put under house arrest while an investigation into his case continues.

Israeli authorities say he was part of a group of youths who attacked police. But Khdeir says he was standing around, watching protesters, when he was accosted.

"I was attacked by police. I woke up in the hospital," he said as he walked out of court in Jerusalem on Sunday, sporting two black eyes and a swollen lip.

"I just saw somebody running at me, so I tried to run away," he told reporters.

Khdeir said he didn't know why he was attacked.

His relatives say he is the young man who appears in two separate videos being held down with his hands bound and beaten by men wearing the uniform of Israeli security forces.

U.S. wants investigation

The magistrate court ordered that he stay under house arrest for nine days at a relative's house in a different neighborhood from the family home.

The U.S. State Department has called for "a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for the apparent excessive use of force."

The Israeli Justice Ministry said the government's legal adviser will investigate the videotaped beating. Khdeir's mother says the family plans to sue Israeli authorities.

The protests at which he was detained were part of days of unrest in Jerusalem -- prompted by the killing of Abu Khedair -- during which Palestinian youths repeatedly clashed with Israeli security forces.

The clashes are the worst the city has seen in a decade.

'Demolish their houses'

Abu Khedair's mother, Suha, said she wants equal justice for the people who abducted him in the early morning as he was heading from his home to a mosque for prayers. He died after being burned alive and hit on the head with a blunt object, authorities say.

'If they sentence them and demolish their houses and give them life sentences, it might satisfy me a little," Suha Abu Khedair said.

The Israeli military destroyed the homes of the two main suspects in the killings of the three Israeli teenagers. Those suspects are still at large.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called on the United Nations to set up an international investigation into recent crimes against Palestinian people, including the killing of Abu Khedair, the Palestinian state news agency WAFA reported.

Officials from both sides have called for restraint amid fears that the cycle of horrific violence could continue.

Crackdown on Hamas

Israeli forces have also continued to crack down on the West Bank operations of Hamas, the militant Islamic movement that it accuses of being behind the killings of the three Israeli teenagers.

Hamas has praised the abductions of the three Jewish youths but denied responsibility for what happened.

Netanyahu vowed last week that "Hamas will pay" for the deaths of Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frankel, 16, who was also a U.S. citizen.

The crackdown, which began after the teens were kidnapped on June 13, has involved hundreds of arrests, widespread searches of homes and deadly clashes.

Gaza violence

At the same time, Israeli forces are facing off against Hamas at the border with Gaza.

Day after day, militants from Hamas, which controls Gaza, have been firing rockets into southern Israel. And day after day, Israel has responded with airstrikes on targets in Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces said Sunday that at least 25 rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel in the past day, and more were reported overnight.

Nine Palestinian militants were killed in over 10 Israeli airstrikes across Gaza overnight into Monday, said Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Seven of the dead are Hamas militants, he said, describing the other two as "citizens."

Mushir Al-Masri, a Hamas leadership figure and member of the Palestinian parliament, expressed anger over the deaths.

"The enemy has crossed the red lines and will be made to pay the price for its crimes," he wrote on his Facebook page. "The blood of our martyrs is precious ... and is fuel for the intifada and the resistance."

But a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces warned early Monday that the strikes would go on.

"We will continue to act in order to debilitate and incapacitate the Hamas terror infrastructure, striking its warehouses, rocket manufacturing capabilities and those that endanger the well-being of the Israelis in the south of the country," Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement.

CNN's Ben Wedeman and Kareem Khadder reported from Jerusalem; CNN's Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Michael Schwartz, Diana Magnay, Holly Yan, Josh Levs, Steve Almasy and Talal Abu Rahma contributed to this report.


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