Outside pressure, threat of bloody IDF campaign behind return of Druze teen’s body – report

UN Mideast envoy appealed to leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Damascus. 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

A broad diplomatic effort by the U.S. and the United Nations, coupled with a plan of military action by Israel, was underway to secure the release of the body of a Druze-Israeli teenager who had been kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists from a hospital in Jenin.

Alongside Israeli officials, U.S. Security Coordinator Gen. Michael Penzel was involved in 30 hours of intense negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of Fatah that is a U.S.-designated terror organization, the Walla news site reported.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland even appealed to leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Damascus, where the terror group is headquartered, according to the report.

Alongside the diplomatic pressure, the IDF was readying to conduct a large-scale, two-day operation in Jenin in a bid to return Tiran Fero’s body to Israel.

Fero’s body was ultimately returned to his family on Thursday and nothing was given in exchange, despite reports that the Palestinian gunmen had demanded the release of PIJ terrorists held in Israeli prisons as well as the bodies of terrorists who were killed by the IDF. Security officials denied the reports, saying that Israel did not “any negotiations with the holders of the body. We did not give anything in return.”

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“The Palestinian security mechanisms and the Palestinian Authority took the incident very seriously as a test in their eyes,” the officials said on Thursday after the return of Fero’s body. “They demonstrated cooperation and a great desire to solve this complex problem, precisely in the city of Jenin. The Palestinian Authority demonstrated responsibility and seriousness here.”

“The Palestinian Authority knew that if it failed the test of returning the body, it would be a disaster for them, how to act in the future in this area. The Palestinian public expects them to demonstrate governance in the area,” the officials said.

Jenin has become a hotbed of terrorism and PA security forces have found it increasingly difficult to crack down on lawlessness there.

Fero had been driving with a friend in the city to get his car fixed when they were involved in a traffic accident. His friend was later transferred to Israel for treatment via a military helicopter. Palestinian medical personnel believed it would be too risky to move Fero, so he remained at Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin.

The terrorists who kidnapped Fero,allegedly did so after mistakenly taking him for an undercover IDF soldier. Once it became clear that he wasn’t an Israeli soldier, they lost support, Israeli officials said.

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“They understood that they would pay a heavy financial price,” the officials said. “They [also] understood that at the end, the IDF would carry out an action that would end with the return of the body and dead or arrested armed militants.”

The abduction enraged the Druze community. Hundreds participated in a rally in Fero’s hometown of Daliyat al-Carmel, and dozens of people blocked a major highway Wednesday night for a short time in protest. A video also surfaced on social media of a small group of masked men saying that if the body wasn’t returned immediately, the Druze would go into Jenin to get it themselves.

Israel’s Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Moafaq Tarif made a veiled threat in an interview on 103FM, saying, “All those who were involved in the kidnapping – their names are already known.”

However, Fero’s uncle, Edri, told Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, one of the IDF’s highest-ranking Druze, that “with all the pain” the family is feeling, his nephew wasn’t alive anymore and he “didn’t want even a single IDF soldier to get hurt” in a mission to get the body back.

Fero’s uncle later claimed his nephew was alive prior to the abduction and that a group of 30 gunmen had stormed the hospital, asking for the “boy who had been in a car crash,” before taking him off life support and whisking him away in a waiting car. The IDF denied his claims, saying Fero was already dead by the time of his abduction.

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Fero was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon in Daliyat al-Carmel, with thousands of mourners participating in his funeral procession.

Speaking at the funeral, Edri said of the Druze community, “We are a peaceful group. I ask that everyone act peacefully after the funeral. There should be no more lives lost. Let us return to a quiet life.”