A large-scale international diplomatic effort has taken place to secure the release of the body of Tiran Fero, a Druze teenager whose remains were snatched by terrorists from a West Bank hospital this week, according to a report on Thursday.
Citing Israeli and Western sources, Walla News reported that the UN’s special envoy for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, even appealed to leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in Damascus.
US security coordinator General Michael Penzel was also involved in coordinating with the Palestinian Authority, the report said, noting that the PA security services were ordered to try facilitate the return of the body.
Fero was seriously injured in a car accident in Jenin and taken to a hospital in the Palestinian city on Tuesday, where he died and his body was snatched by unidentified gunmen.
An Israeli official told the news site that the leader of the armed group that abducted Fero’s body was linked to the currently imprisoned leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, Zakaria Zubeidi, but was affiliated at the JIP.
The official noted that another member of the group’s leader’s family had recently been killed in a clash with IDF forces, and said his body was held by Israel.
Security officials said the suspects demanded the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel or the bodies of deceased Palestinian terrorists held by Israel in exchange for Fero, who was a senior in high school.
In the background of the diplomacy, there was a warning from Israel and the IDF that if the body was not returned, Israel would launch a large-scale operation in the West Bank, according to the report.
“Everyone understood that it could have been a bloodbath,” a Western diplomat told the news site.
Meanwhile, Wennesland reportedly considered an immediate visit to Jenin, but PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj told him it was not necessary, the diplomat said.
Wennesland then contacted PIJ leader in Damascus, Ziad Nakhaleh, to demand the release of the body, but the latter denied that his group was involved in the kidnapping.
Yet, according to the report citing officials, Nakhaleh then called the armed cell himself and warned them to release the body immediately.
“Nakhaleh understood that this incident could lead to a large conflict that the PIJ did not suit at present,” the Western diplomat said, according to the report.
The body was turned over to PA intelligence officials, who then brought it to the Salem checkpoint, where it was handed over to Fero’s family. A few hours later, he was buried.
Thousands of mourners marched in the funeral procession in Fero, in his predominantly Druze hometown of Daliyat al-Karmel in northern Israel, on what would have been his 18th birthday.
Although his the family claimed that Palestinian gunmen unfastened him from life support when they caught him in hospital, the military and a senior defense source insisted he was already dead when he was taken away.
Her body was detained for about 30 hours.
Israel gave nothing in exchange for the body, a senior defense source told reporters Thursday morning, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We held no negotiations with those who held the body. We gave nothing back,” the source said. “We made it clear that this body belonged to the family. The Palestinian Authority pushed to end the saga quickly out of embarrassment, and in Jenin the kidnappers lost support after the public realized they would pay a heavy financial price.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.