BRUSSELS - The European Union condemned on Wednesday the killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack, saying it was "extremely concerned" about the potential for more violence.
"We condemn in the strongest terms the killing of a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem," EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement. "The perpetrators of this act must be brought to justice," she said. Similar comments were made by Quartet Representative Tony Blair.
Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khder was killed in a possible revenge attack for the murder of three Israeli youths whose bodies were discovered earlier this week. His death sparked further clashes on Wednesday between Palestinians and police in east Jerusalem.
Ashton urged Israelis and Palestinians to exercise "maximum restraint" in the wake of the deaths.
"We are extremely concerned about the latest developments which increase the risk of further escalation," she said.
Tensions have soared across the region since June 12 when three Israeli teenagers disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank. Their bodies were discovered on Monday, with Israel blaming Hamas and vowing to retaliate.
The Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of abducting and killing an Arab teenager and burning his body Wednesday, sparking hours of clashes in east Jerusalem and drawing charges that the youth was murdered to avenge the killings of three kidnapped Israeli teens.
Seeking to calm the explosive situation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged a swift inquiry into the "reprehensible murder" and called on people to respect the rule of law. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was clear extremist Jewish settlers were responsible and called on Israel to bring the killers to justice.
"The settlers have killed and burned a little boy. They are well known," Abbas said, accusing Israel of tolerating settler violence toward Palestinians. "I demand that the Israeli government hold the killers accountable."
The discovery of the bodies led to a national outpouring of grief, with tens of thousands of people attending a funeral Tuesday in which the teens were laid to rest side-by-side. As the burial took place, hundreds of young, right-wing Israelis marched through downtown Jerusalem screaming for revenge.
Hours later, relatives of Mohammed Abu Khdeir said the 17-year-old was forced into a car in a neighborhood of east Jerusalem that quickly sped off. A burned body believed to be his was found shortly afterward in a Jerusalem forest, though police said late Wednesday they were still awaiting forensics tests to make a positive identification.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said authorities were looking at "a number of different directions" in the killing, including nationalistic or criminal motives. "We are waiting for the final results of the autopsy," he said.
But Abu Khdeir's family said they had no doubt about the killers, accusing extremist Israelis of killing him to avenge the deaths of the Israeli teenagers.
"Who else could do this? There's no one else," said the teen's father, Saed Abu Khdeir. He said he spent the day with police and gave DNA samples to help identify the body.