Israel rushes reinforcements to southern Gaza border as leaders try to soothe tensions

The Associated Press

Israeli soldiers stand at a damaged home after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, landed in the southern town of Sderot Thursday, July 3,2014. Israeli military carried out airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel early Thursday. The Israeli military said the air force struck 15 "terror sites" in Gaza. "The targets included weapons manufacturing sites as well as training facilities," a military spokesman said. (AP Photo / Tsafrir Abayov)

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In east Jerusalem, meanwhile, masked Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli security forces for a second straight day in a burst of anger over the death of Abu Khdeir. Protesters lit tires on fire, and standing behind a large garbage bin, hurled stones at Israeli security forces. Police responded with stun grenades but largely kept their distance. No injuries were reported.

Clashes were much heavier the previous day, when rioters torched three light-rail train shelters, leaving city streets covered in stones and debris. Train service to Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem remained out of service Thursday.

Palestinians believe that Israeli extremists abducted Abu Khdeir and killed him to avenge the deaths of the Israeli youths, whose bodies were found in a field in the West Bank on Monday after a more than two-week search.

A day before Abu Khdeir's disappearance, hundreds of right-wing Israeli youths marched through central Jerusalem, chanting "Death to Arabs" and vowing revenge. Police said Thursday they were still trying to determine the motive for the killing.

In the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, Abu Khdeir's family set up a mourning tent and distributed posters mourning his death. The posters showed his child-like face and described him as a "brave martyr."

Relatives said they expected to receive the body back from an Israeli forensics lab on Friday afternoon, when they planned a funeral.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the police presence would be heavy in east Jerusalem as the funeral would also coincide with the first Friday prayer services of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The events have sparked a debate in Israel over whether hard-line Israelis have incited hatred — and perhaps even been responsible for Abu Khdeir's death as the Palestinians allege.

A number of photos also have appeared on social media with Israelis urging revenge.

In one picture, a young man wearing an Israeli military uniform postures with a gun and the word "revenge" scrawled on his chest. In another two young women posed with signs reading "Hating Arabs is not racist. It is moral." The Israeli military said it had sentenced four soldiers to 10-day jail terms for posting inappropriate material on Facebook.

Palestinians expressed similar sentiments mocking the disappearance of the three Israeli teens last month.


Associated Press journalists Yaniv Zohar on the Israeli border with Gaza and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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