Palestinian gunmen are holding the body of a young Israeli who was hospitalized after a traffic accident near Jenin. The victim's family says the teenager was still alive prior to the abduction.
The victim was identified as Tiran Ferro, a 17-year-old high-school student from the Druze city of Daliat al-Carmel. Ferro was traveling in a friend's vehicle on Tuesday when the traffic accident happened, and the pair were hospitalized in the West Bank.
While his friend was later moved to Israel for treatment via a military helicopter, Palestinian medical officials believed that Ferro's transfer would endanger his life. As a result, he remained at Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin, where he was later kidnapped.
Tiran's uncle, who was at the hospital with his nephew, said that a group of armed men entered the building looking for "the young man who was involved in the accident."
"They fired their weapons in the air and yelled in Arabic, no one dared to stop them. They disconnected him from the life support machines and threw him into a vehicle," he added.
Ferro's family claims that the teenager was still alive when Palestinian gunmen stormed the hospital and took his body. The security establishment is investigating this claim, but it is difficult to assess whether Ferro died of his wounds before or after the abduction.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid vowed that Israel will return Ferro's body, adding that the kidnappers "will pay a heavy price."
United Arab List party leader Mansour Abbas said he is following the incident and that he "calls on all the relevant parties to work towards releasing the body. Holding the body serves no legitimate purpose."
According to a senior Fatah official and sources in the Israeli security establishment, the body is being held in the Jenin refugee camp.
The Palestinian official explained that the gunmen staged the kidnapping because they believed Ferro was an Israeli soldier working undercover. Palestinian officials said that the evacuation of the injured by military helicopter, the increased security vigilance and the operation of drones over the Jenin refugee camp, strengthen the claim that Ferro was not a regular civilian.
Security officials in Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been negotiating since last night for the release of Ferro's body.
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An agreement was reached early Wednesday morning to return the body. It was transferred to the Red Crescent ambulance which started traveling towards Israel – but during the journey, armed men took over the vehicle and kidnapped the body a second time.
Since then, the talks have continued, with Israel weighing the possibility of military action to release the body. According to a Fatah official, those who kidnapped the body are not associated with any particular organization or militant faction.
Ferro's uncle stated that he spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Ghassan Alian. He told both of them that Ferro's family doesn't want Israel to risk soldiers in order to retrieve the body: "We're willing to wait a few more days, I don't want another mother in Israel to cry."
Ferro's father, Husseim, said that his son had gone to an auto shop in Jenin to fix his car. The entry of Israelis into Jenin is not unusual, and this is not the first time that an Israeli citizen has needed medical treatment at a hospital in the city.
Ferro's sister, Yasmin, said that she was begging for him to be returned. "He was a human being, he was not a soldier. Give us the right to hug him one last time," she said. Ferro was supposed to celebrate his 18th birthday on Thursday, according to members of his family.
A senior Palestinian security official spoke with Haaretz on Wednesday, explaining that he "cannot say that we are close to the point where the body will be released, but I can say that anybody with influence is taking part in the conversations."
Following the incident, the Israeli army announced the closure of the Jalameh crossing. Palestinian sources within Jenin say that there is very little local support for the kidnapping event, with many residents calling for the body to be returned to the Ferro family. In addition to the immediate damage caused by closing the crossing, Palestinians believe the kidnapping will sway international public opinion against them.
According to sources in the Israeli defense establishment, the armed Palestinians are demanding the release of prisoners from Israeli jails or the release of bodies of terrorists killed by the IDF.
The head of the Daliat al-Carmel regional council, Rafik Halabi, told Haaretz that he and the Ferro family are also involved in efforts to secure the release of the body.
Hundreds of Daliat al-Carmel residents protested the incident near the local municipality on Wednesday.
The spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community, Sheikh Muafak Tariff, also said he is having conversations with all parties involved. According to Tariff, holding the body "is against all religious and social principles. I call on the Palestinian Authority's security forces to advance the release of the body."