Footage 'Shows Moment Arab Teen Abducted'; but Questions Remain
CCTV footage has emerged which purportedly shows the moment 16-year-old Mohammed Abu-Khder was abducted on Tuesday night from the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina in Jerusalem, hours before his dead body was found burned in Jerusalem Forest.
The video was obtained by the Daily Telegraph, which said it had been handed the footage by the Abu-Khder family. The British paper said that while Israeli police had obtained film from two nearby cameras showing the abduction from different angles, the family had not handed this film to police yet - although it did not explain why the family would withhold evidence which could potentially shed light on their own son's murder.
In the footage it is possible to make out a smaller figure, said to be Mohammed, who is stopped by two other men. After a brief conversation a light-colored car pulls up next to them, and a struggle ensues.
Finally, all three figures get into the car, which speeds off.
The video, which was taken from a store across the street from where Mohammed is said to be sitting, is far from clear, but the family insists that it shows the moments Mohammed was bundled into a car by two men, shortly after which he was murdered.
But if it is indeed a recording of the moment the young Arab teen was kidnapped, it raises more questions than it answers.
Almost immediately after his body was found officials were quick to assume the murder must have been a "revenge" attack by Jewish extremists in response to the murder of three Israeli teens, whose funerals were held earlier that day. The kidnap-murder scenario bore a chilling resemblance to the way in which the three Israeli boys were killed, further fueling speculation of a tit-for-tat killing.
The hasty conclusions drawn by Israeli officials - from Jerusalem's mayor Nir Barkat to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and even the Prime Minister, all of whom issued condemnatory statements implying that it was a revenge attack - were soon echoed by Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials, who vowed to "make Israel pay" for the killing. Foreign diplomats and media outlets were remarkably quick to issue similar condemnations as well.
Riots broke out shortly after, and disturbances have continued since - putting parts of Jerusalem's light rail out of action.
Yet as early as Wednesday morning Israeli police issued a statement urging people to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions, saying they were exploring all possible leads, including both "nationalistic" and "criminal" motives for the crime.
Apparently in vain, a statement by police insisted: "The circumstances of the event have not yet been established. All directions of investigation are being looked into. Please exhibit responsibility and wait for official results and announcements by the Jerusalem District Spokesman."
And the above footage - if genuine - casts yet more doubt on the theory that Mohammed was targeted at random by Jewish extremists.
We already know that Mohammed was abducted and bundled into a car by unknown assailants - although initial reports suggested the car was black, as opposed to the light-colored vehicle seen in the video above. And it is clear that the figure said to be Mohammed does not go willingly - matching testimony that he was forced into the vehicle.
But that the men are wandering the streets of an Arab neighborhood late at night, and strike up a conversation with the teen before a waiting car pulls over to pick up the victim, raises the possibility that Mohammed was targeted specifically for one reason or another, as opposed to being randomly picked by Jewish vigilantes.
Such a scenario would fit in with suggestions offered by Moshe Nussbaum, a leading Israeli journalist and police affairs expert who raised questions over the background to the killings.
As reported earlier Thursday by Arutz Sheva, in an interview with Channel 2 Nussbaum noted that not long before Mohammed's abduction, his parents had reported to police that his younger brother had been the victim of an attempted kidnapping himself.
Bizarrely, while the boy's mother had told police that "settlers" (who for some reason she was unable to describe further) had attempted the abduction of her nine-year-old boy, his father had insisted that the would-be kidnappers were Arabs.
When police asked the father to file a formal complaint, he said he would, but that he would come down to the police station later on to do so in order to be able to comfort his son first. Yet the father never showed up, despite police contacting him several times subsequently to ask him to file the complaint.
The questions are numerous. Why were two boys from the same family targeted within a short time of one another? Was it a coincidence, or was the family embroiled in a wider familial or criminal dispute which would lead to two of its members being specifically targeted? Were the attackers in the first incident Jewish, or Arab - and why the discrepancy? Why didn't Mohammed's father follow up with a complaint?
One former police official who spoke to Arutz Sheva on condition of anonymity Wednesday claimed the Abu-Khder family is well known to police sources in Jerusalem, adding "it's a problematic family with internal clashes that have been ongoing for many years."
He asserted that he was "confident that as time passes it will be clarified that the murder was criminal and nothing more."
But with a gag order still in place over the progress of the investigation it is impossible to say with any certainty whether the murder of Mohammed Abu-Khder was a revenge killing, or something else entirely.
What is clear however, is that in the rush to label the murder as a "revenge" attack, some nagging questions have been left unanswered.