JERUSALEM --Israeli authorities believe the killing of a Palestinian teenager was motivated by "nationalistic" reasons, an official said Sunday, indicating that Jewish extremists were behind the death.
Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted last week and his charred body found a short while later in a Jerusalem forest in what Palestinians say was a revenge killing for the earlier deaths of three Israeli teens. His death set off days of violent protests in Arab areas of Jerusalem and northern Israel.
Police have been investigating various avenues in the teen's death, including criminal or personal motives. But an official said Sunday that evidence points toward Jewish extremists.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
Palestinians have alleged that Abu Khdeir was killed by Jewish extremists to avenge the killings of the three Israeli teenagers, who were abducted in the West Bank on June 12. Their bodies were found last week, and Abu Khdeir was killed just hours after their funeral.
Adding to the tensions, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have stepped up rocket attacks on southern Israel, drawing Israeli airstrikes in retaliation. At midday Sunday, militants fired eight more rockets into Israel, the military said. Overnight, Israel had carried out airstrikes on 10 sites in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel would act calmly and responsibly in the face of rising Israeli-Palestinian hostilities.
"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.
His statement came after weekend clashes between Israeli police and demonstrators in Jerusalem and Arab towns in northern Israel following Abu Khdeir's death. On Sunday, Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian American who was badly injured in clashes with Israeli police, was sentenced to nine days of home detention.
His parents say Tariq Abu Khdeir, 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.
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.
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 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. Police 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.
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.