While countries clash over the kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teen, his family in Sacramento mourn the loss of a fun loving boy.
Wadha Abukhdeir, of Sacramento, learned about her cousin's kidnapping and death Tuesday night. She said her 16-year-old cousin Mohammed Abukhdeir was kidnapped from his village outside of Jerusalem.
"He was waiting for morning prayers, standing outside of the mosque. They just had Sukar which is the meal we have just before we start fasting for the day," Abukhdeir said. "While he was waiting, three men pulled up in a car and pretended to ask for directions. We believe they were pretending to be Arab."
Abukhdeir said Muhammed walked over to the men, who were still in the car, to give them directions.
"Two of the men snatched him. The third man drove them away," she said.
Abukhdeir said several cousins jumped into their car and gave chase, but they could not catch up.
Muhammed was stabbed to death and then burned. He was found hours later in a Jerusalem forest. Abukhdeir said her cousin's body was burned so badly, his family members could not even identify him; instead, DNA tests are needed to official identify his remains.
The family and many Palestinians believe it was a retaliatory act for the deaths of three Israeli youths whose dead bodies were found Monday in West Bank.
"My cousin Mohammed was just a boy, just at 16-year-old boy, barely on the cusp of manhood. And they took away his life," Abukhdeir said.
Other cousins in Sacramento told News10 they are stunned by the news. They said he was a fun-loving boy who loved to tell jokes and riddles; they said what happened to Mohammed was wrong and sick, and they hope justice will be served.
Mohammed also has family members who live in Davis, Auburn and Newcastle.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was clear extremist Jewish settlers were responsible and called on Israel to bring the killers to justice.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a swift inquiry into the "reprehensible murder."