Body of Israeli teen taken by militants returned to family

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Members of the Israeli Druze minority mourn around the body of Tiran Fero, 17, during his funeral in Daliyat al-Carmel, Israel, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Fero's body, which was taken by Palestinian militants from a West Bank hospital where he was seeking treatment after a car accident, was returned to his family on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

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

The teenager was from Israel’s Druze Arab minority. Its members serve in the Israeli security forces and also have links to Palestinians. The incident threatened to ratchet up already boiling tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

The family of 17-year-old Tiran Fero said Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin entered the hospital where he was being treated after a car crash. They disconnected him from hospital equipment while he was still alive and took him away, according to his father, Husam Fero.

The Israeli military said Tiran Fero was already dead when he was snatched and that the circumstances of his death remained under investigation. The military did not offer evidence and Fero's father did not elaborate on his claim that his son was alive when he was taken.

An Israeli military official said 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 abduction 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 abduction and no militant group has claimed responsibility for the act. Palestinian militants in the past have carried out kidnappings to seek concessions from Israel.

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 on Thursday that they were 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 found the three Palestinians, injured and bound, and freed them.

The police did not say whether the incident was related to the snatching of Fero.

Also Thursday, thousands of mourners took part in the funeral of two Palestinians who had died of wounds they suffered earlier from Israeli fire. A 22-year-old civilian, Mohammed Abu Kushuk, was wounded Tuesday night during an Israeli raid in Nablus. Militant Mohammed Herzallah, 30, was wounded during clashes with Israeli forces in July.

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.