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Tensions escalate between Israelis and Palestinians following teen deaths

July 5, 2014 at 5:46 PM EDT
For more on the escalating tensions inflaming the Isareli-Palestinian conflict, Josef Federman of the Associated Press joins John Larson via Skype from Jerusalem.

JOHN LARSON: For more we are joined now from Jerusalem via Skype by Josef Federman of the Associated Press. Joe, thanks so much for joining us.

I woke up this morning to the first news of this autopsy that came out involving the Palestinian youth killed there this week, what can you tell us about that?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yeah, we’ve received the initial results of the autopsy and they’re pretty disturbing. The signs are that this boy was burned alive. They found signs that he had actually inhaled smoke before he died.

JOHN LARSON: And where’s the criminal investigation into his death, do we know who did this yet?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: We don’t. The assumption, at least on the Palestinian side, is that Israeli extremists did this in a revenge attack following the deaths of three Israeli teenagers found earlier this week.

Israel has put maximum effort into the search for the killers but they still don’t know who they are and they still don’t have a firm motive.

They say they’re exploring all possibilities including nationalistic motives, but also the possibility of criminal activities or some sort of family feud. It’s really too soon to say.

JOHN LARSON: Joe, I know personally you’ve been reporting out of the region for more than a decade now. What do the events of the last couple weeks seem to you like?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yes, I feel like we’ve entered some uncharted waters here. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before in a decade of covering the story.

It began with the kidnappings of three Israeli teenagers three weeks ago that’s what set off this current round of tensions.

Where you have three civilians, underage, teenagers, being targeted, abducted, and killed. That was sort of a level of cruelty, a type of attack that hasn’t been seen before.

The reaction in Israel  also was something that I haven’t seen where you have hundreds, outside of my office the following day when the boys were being buried, hundreds of right wing young Israeli march through downtown Jerusalem, calling for revenge screaming ‘death to Arabs’ and so forth. It was a chilling sight to see.

And then a few hours later, this boy is abducted in East Jerusalem. This Palestinian boy is abducted and his charred body is found in the forest just a few hours later.

Now we’re not sure who did it, but the timing, the motive, the atmosphere, at least points in that direction as a strong possibility.

JOHN LARSON: You had also told me earlier in a telephone conversation that you saw the mother of one of the Israelis killed speak out.

JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yeah she issued a statement, the family issued a statement and this is sort of a glimmer of hope I guess. Saying after the Palestinian boy was found burned to death, she put out a statement saying — murder is wrong it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, it doesn’t matter if you’re Arab, murder is murder.

And hopefully a voice like that can calm tensions down as we move forward.

JOHN LARSON: Josef Federman from the Associated Press, thanks so much for joining us.