US condemns 'heinous murder' of Palestinian teen

Thursday - 7/3/2014, 12:50pm EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is condemning the killing of a Palestinian teenager as a "despicable act" and is calling on the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the United States "condemns in the strongest possible terms" the death of 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, which followed the discovery in the West Bank on Monday of the bodies of three abducted Israeli teenagers.

"We hope to swiftly see the guilty parties brought to justice," Earnest told reporters. "We call on the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary steps to prevent an atmosphere of revenge and retribution. People who undertake acts of vengeance will only destabilize an already volatile and emotional situation."

Earnest declined to say whether the U.S. considers the teen's death an act of revenge for the three Israeli teens, but said the U.S. doesn't want to see the situation spiral out of control and lead to further violence.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. is not conducting an independent investigation into the killings in either of the cases, and indicated that Washington is relying on information from Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Israeli authorities urged caution, saying the body still had not been identified and the circumstances of the death remained under investigation.

Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, said in a series of posts on Twitter that the U.S. is paying close attention to the investigation. And Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement calling the killing "sickening" and said "there are no words to convey adequately our condolences to the Palestinian people."

"The world has too often learned the hard way that violence only leads to more violence and at this tense and dangerous moment, all parties must do everything in their power to protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not recrimination and retribution," Kerry said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israeli extremists of killing the teen, whose body was found in a Jerusalem forest.

Psaki also repeated what she described as indications that the militant group Hamas was involved in the abduction and deaths of the three Israeli teens.

"It's also important to note that Hamas' leadership publicly praised the kidnappings, and we've seen a pattern of events over the course of quite some time that we would also point to," Psaki said.

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Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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