JERUSALEM — Initial autopsy findings that a kidnapped Arab teenager from East Jerusalem was burned alive added Saturday to a growing sense that Israeli-Palestinian tensions have reached explosive levels.
Protests over the death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, spread from East Jerusalem to Arab communities inside Israel. Youths burned tires and hurled stones in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel; in Arab towns northeast of Tel Aviv; and along a major east-west highway flanked by Arab villages.
Palestinian Attorney General Abdelghani al-Owaiwi said in a statement that an autopsy showed that Abu Khdeir, who was abducted early Wednesday outside a mosque in East Jerusalem, died from "burns and their complications."
The postmortem examination of Abu Khdeir's body found "soot in the area of the breathing airways, windpipes and lungs, which indicates inhalation of this substance during the burning when he was alive," the statement said.
Burns of varying degrees were found on 90 percent of the youth's body, and his head was bruised, the statement said.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli Health Ministry and a police spokesman said they had no knowledge of the preliminary findings. The autopsy was performed at Israel's forensic institute with the participation of the chief Palestinian forensic pathologist, and final results have yet to be released.
But the Palestinian attorney general's statement, which was released late Friday, seemed likely to exacerbate what already had become a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the wake of the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers, who disappeared June 12 and whose bodies were found hidden in a field in the West Bank on Monday.
Police say they are still trying to determine whether Abu Khdeir's kidnapping and murder hours after the three Israeli teens' joint funeral was retaliation for the Israelis' deaths. But even without that official finding, the discovery of his body in a wooded area of Jerusalem surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods set off a wave of rioting in Arab East Jerusalem.
Tensions also remained high on the border with the Gaza Strip, after militants fired more rockets into Israel. Israel responded with airstrikes, hitting three "Hamas terror targets" in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said.
Egypt is working to mediate a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel after three weeks of cross-border hostilities triggered by the kidnapping of the Israeli teens, which Israel blamed on Hamas.