JOHN LARSON: We begin tonight in Israel, where authorities today arrested six men they believe are responsible for the revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager. The 16-year-old was beaten and burned alive.
The incident apparently sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. The arrest were one of several important developments in Israel today. For more we are once again joined via Skype in Jerusalem by Josef Federman of the Associated Press.
Joe thanks again for joining us. What do we know about the arrest today?
JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well Israeli authorities have just announced that they arrested several suspects. They haven’t given the official number, but officials are saying that they have six people in custody.
The arrest took place this morning and everybody is still being interrogated right now. We don’t know their identifications yet, we don’t have their names, but we know that they are Jewish. We know that they are young men. In fact some of them are below the age of 18. They have been identified as minors and they come from the Jerusalem area.
JOHN LARSON: You don’t know anything about their affiliation or what might be behind this? But 24 hours ago they weren’t even sure whether or not it was nationalistic in its nature.
JOSEF FEDERMAN: Exactly. That’s why this is a significant breakthrough because it really, it points us in the direction that Palestinians certainly have expected and a lot of Israelis have feared — that it was nationalistic. Initially police have been looking into possible criminal motives or personal motives. But now they identified the direction from which it came.
JOHN LARSON: Joe, I read a description that the Palestinian mother of the Palestinian boy that was killed of her reaction saying that, regardless of who was arrested she didn’t trust what was going to happen. And she said, you know, that maybe they should treat whoever is arrested treat their families like they treat our families burn their houses. It was an angry response.
To what extent do you think this arrest will, will matter to the Palestinian community?
JOSEF FEDERMAN: I think what the mother expressed is a common sentiment. There is a lot of distrust toward the Israeli authorities. Relations are bad and they have been bad for a long time. That said the situation on the ground seems to be calming today. You see a lot of efforts by the Israeli Prime Minister who went on national TV, just in the past few minutes to urge calm.
Israel’s president Shimon Peres, the Noble Peace prize winner, also urging calm. And there are attempts by Israeli officials to work with Arab leader in northern Israel where there have been violent protest in the past few days. Also working together to get things back to normal. In addition in east Jerusalem in the neighborhoods that saw the heaviest rioting things are moving back to normal today. We see market places reopening, we see the streets are reopening to traffic and people going back to their routines. So the signs are that things are beginning to calm down.
JOHN LARSON: What about the investigation into the murder of the three Israeli teens? Where does that stand?
JOSEF FEDERMAN: That continues and I know it’s a high priority for the Israelis. Today we were told that there has been another arrest. It’s possibly a significant arrest because it took place in the same town in Hebron. The city of the West Bank where the suspected killers who were still on the loose, where they come from. So there’s some speculation that today’s arrest was significant. That said, Israel has arrested probably 400 people so far in its ongoing investigation. So no immediate signs of a breakthrough.
JOHN LARSON: I understand there may be developments in another incident of a beating by Israeli police of and American teenager. The cousin of the Palestinian teen who was killed, any news on that?
JOSEF FEDERMAN: Absolutely, he also was in the same neighborhood from his cousin who was killed. He was beaten very bad by Israeli Security troops during one of the demonstrations the other day. He was released from Israeli custody today. He was in pretty bad shape two black eyes, His mouth, his face was all swollen but he’s been released to house arrest. He was ordered to stay with his family while this investigation continues. We spoke to him very briefly and he just said he’s happy to be home.
JOHN LARSON: Josef Federman of the Associated Press from Jerusalem, once again, we thank you.
JOSEF FEDERMAN: Thank you.