A large-scale international diplomatic effort took place to secure the release of the body of Tiran Fero, a Druze teenager whose remains were stolen by terrorists from a West Bank hospital this week, according to a report on Thursday.
Citing Israeli and Western sources, Walla News reported that UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland even appealed to the leaders of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Damascus.
US security coordinator General Michael Penzel was also involved in coordinating with the Palestinian Authority, the report said, noting that PA security services were ordered to try to facilitate the return of the body.
Critically injured in a car accident in Jenin, Fero was taken to a hospital in the Palestinian city on Tuesday, where he died, his body taken by unidentified gunmen.
An Israeli official told the news site that the leader of the armed group that kidnapped Fero’s body was related to the currently imprisoned leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin, Zakaria Zubeidi, but he was affiliated with the PIJ.
The official noted that another family member of the leader of the group had recently been killed in a clash with IDF forces, and said his body was being held by Israel.
Security officials said the suspects had demanded the release of Palestinians jailed by Israel or the bodies of dead Palestinian terrorists detained by Israel in exchange for Fero, who was a high school senior.
Underlying the diplomacy 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, the report said.
“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 unnecessary, 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.
Still, 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 wide conflict, which did not suit the PIJ at this time,” the Western diplomat said, according to the report.
The body was handed over to PA intelligence officers, who later took it to the Salem checkpoint, where it was handed over to Fero’s family. Hours later he was laid to rest.
Thousands of mourners walked in Fero’s funeral procession, in his majority Druze hometown of Daliyat al-Karmel in northern Israel, on what would have been his 18th birthday.
Although his family claimed that Palestinian gunmen took him off life support when they grabbed him from the hospital, the military and a senior defense source insisted he was already dead when he was taken.
His body was kept for about 30 hours.
Israel did not give anything in exchange for the body, a senior defense source told reporters Thursday morning, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We did not conduct any negotiations with those who kept the body. We gave nothing in return, the source said. “We clarified that this body should be returned to the family. The Palestinian Authority pressed to end the saga quickly because it was embarrassing, and in Jenin the kidnappers lost support after the public understood that they would pay a high financial price.”
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.