Body of Israeli teen, taken by militants, is returned

JERUSALEM (AP): The body of an Israeli teen that was taken by Palestinian militants from a West Bank hospital was returned to his family on Thursday, the Israeli military said.

Relatives of Tiran Fero, 17, said Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin entered the hospital where Fero was seeking treatment after a car crash. They disconnected him from hospital equipment while still alive, according to his father, and removed him from the hospital. The Israeli military said Fero was already dead when he was snatched and that the circumstances of the teenager’s death remained under investigation.

The incident threatened to ratchet up already boiling tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, but the body’s return appeared to defuse that for now.

Fero was from Israel’s Druze Arab minority, members of which serve in the Israeli security forces and also have links to Palestinians.

An Israeli military official said that the return of the body was conducted through the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited autonomy in areas of the West Bank, and that no negotiations were made with the gunmen who held the body. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Akram Rajoub, the Palestinian governor of Jenin, told Israel’s Kan public radio that the kidnapping of Fero’s body was “a big mistake,” and that Palestinian officials made great efforts to secure its release. He extended condolences to Fero’s family and the Druze community.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the kidnapping. Palestinian militants in the past have carried out kidnappings to seek concessions from Israel but the Jenin militants issued no public statement about the act.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked Palestinian officials “who worked tirelessly” for the return of Fero’s body.

“This is a basic, humanitarian measure taken after a horrific incident,” he said.

The incident angered the Druze community, which demanded the body be returned.

Police said Thursday that it was investigating an incident in which three Palestinian laborers were allegedly attacked by residents of the overwhelmingly Druze village of Yarka in the Galilee. Police said officers located the Palestinians after they had been injured, kidnapped and bound.

The police did not say whether the incident was related to the kidnapping of Fero’s body.

More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2006.

The fighting has surged since a series of Palestinian attacks in the spring killed 19 people in Israel.

The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.

Another eight Israelis have been killed in a fresh wave of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks. On Wednesday, twin explosions at two bus stops in Jerusalem killed a teen and wounded at least 18 people.