Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel would act calmly and responsibly in the face of rising Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, just hours after Israel’s military carried out airstrikes on 10 sites in the Gaza Strip.
His statement came after weekend clashes between Israeli police and demonstrators in Jerusalem and Arab towns in northern Israel following the killing of a Palestinian youth. Also Sunday, an American teenager detained during violent protests in east Jerusalem was being brought before a court.
“Experience proves that in moments like these, one must act calmly and responsibly, not hysterically and hastily,” Netanyahu said at the opening of his weekly Cabinet meeting.
The Israeli airstrikes targeted what the army said were militant sites including rocket launchers and a weapons manufacturing site, following at least 29 other rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel over the weekend.
Two of those rockets were aimed at Beersheba, a southern city deeper into Israel than any other attack in the current round of violence.
The military said its “Iron Dome” defense system intercepted the two rockets.
Tensions have been high since three Israeli teens were abducted on June 12, setting off a massive Israeli ground operation in search of the youths, whose bodies were discovered early last week. The Israelis blamed Hamas for their killings and launched a major crackdown against the Islamic militant group.
Two days later, Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir was seized from his home in east Jerusalem and his burned body was found in a forest. Police say they are still investigating the killing, but Palestinians say Israeli extremists killed the teenager to avenge the deaths of the three Israelis.
Protests spread over the weekend from Jerusalem to Arab towns in northern Israel, with hundreds of people throwing rocks and fire bombs at officers who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, according to Israeli police. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said 22 Arab Israelis were arrested in clashes on Saturday.
Israeli Arabs, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hold citizenship rights. But they often face discrimination and many identify with the Palestinians. Even so, violent riots like those that occurred on Saturday are rare.
Clashes mostly subsided by early Sunday, but the situation remained tense. Samri said a Jewish woman was attacked and lightly wounded early Sunday by a group of Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City. Her husband fired his weapon and the attackers fled, and police were searching for them, Samri said.
Also Sunday, police asked a Jerusalem court to extend the detention of 15-year-old U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir.
His parents say their son, who goes to school in Florida, was beaten Thursday by Israeli police during clashes over the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The two youths were cousins.
Tariq’s parents, Suha and Salah, said Tariq was the last person with Mohammed shortly before he was seized. They said Tariq left Mohammed to eat before the Ramadan fast began at dawn Wednesday, and Mohammed was seized shortly afterward.
Police said Tariq Abu Khdeir resisted arrest, attacked officers, and was captured with a slingshot for lobbing stones.
Abu Khdeir’s face was masked in a keffiyeh, an Arab headscarf that some Palestinian protesters wore during the clashes to conceal their identity, police added. He was detained along with six other protesters, police said, including some armed with knives, adding that several officers were hurt in that specific protest, one of many that day.
Amateur video of what Tariq’s father Salah said was the beating aired on a local television station, and he said he could recognize his son from his clothing.
The U.S. State Department said it was “profoundly troubled” by reports of his beating and demanded an investigation. Israel’s Justice Ministry quickly launched a formal investigation.
In the West Bank, the army arrested a Palestinian in the city of Hebron. His family identified him as Hossam Dufesh. The army would not elaborate on the arrest, but Israeli forces have concentrated its search for the killers of three Israeli teens in the Hebron area.