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Israel, Gaza militants trade fire after teen killings

Israel deployed extra forces to its border with Gaza on Thursday after continued Palestinian rocket fire and heightened tensions following the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM: Israel deployed extra forces to its border with Gaza on Thursday after continued Palestinian rocket fire and heightened tensions following the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

"We are moving and we have moved forces in order to serve defence activities and forward preparation, but we have no interest in escalation," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told journalists.

The reinforcements were reserve officers at "headquarter level, not in the field", Lerner said, and were a purely defensive measure.

An AFP photographer saw tanks arriving at a kibbutz near the border.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz sent a mixed message in comments tweeted by the army.

"We are looking for calm, not escalation, but if Hamas chooses to act against us, we shall be ready," he said.

Israeli warplanes pounded targets inside the Gaza Strip on Thursday and militants hit back with 19 rockets.

In east Jerusalem's Shuafat neighbourhood, masked Palestinians hurled stones and fireworks at Israeli police and sent burning car tyres rolling along streets in a second day of protests over the kidnap and murder of Mohammed Abu Khder, a local 16-year-old.

Many believe his death was a copycat killing following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month.

Israel police say the motive for Abu Khder's killing is still unclear, and have not said how he died.

But the family's lawyer told AFP the boy's body had been burnt "beyond recognition".

It was not known when he would be buried.

In clashes on Wednesday, 232 Palestinians were injured, 178 of them in Shuafat alone, said Dr Amin Abu Ghazali of the Red Crescent in east Jerusalem.

Of that number, 187 were wounded by rubber bullets and six by live ammunition, he told AFP.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Abu Khder's killing as "despicable" and urged both sides "not to take the law into their own hands".

One of the families of the three murdered Israeli teens described it as a "horrendous act".

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded that Netanyahu act against revenge attacks and called for Abu Khder's killers to be caught and punished.

Four Israeli soldiers who allegedly used social media to call for revenge and to "annihilate terrorists" were jailed for 10 days by the military.

Outgoing Israel President Shimon Peres issued a plea for restraint.

"People who are engaged in incitement are not always aware where it can lead, to more sorrow, to more dangers," he said in a statement.

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, blamed by Israel for the kidnap and murder of the three teenagers in June, said it held Netanyahu's government directly responsible for the killing of Abu Khder.

"You will pay the price for your crimes," it said.

And Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, warned Israel to wind down its Gaza air strikes and widespread West Bank arrests -- mainly of Hamas members.

"What the enemy is doing in the West Bank and Gaza... adds fuel to the fire of confrontation," spokesman Abu Obeida told a press conference in Gaza City on Thursday.

"Idiotic measures by your leaders will be enough for us to turn your localities and sites...into embers."

On Wednesday night, the Israeli air force staged 15 strikes on "Hamas targets", among them concealed rocket launchers, weapons storage facilities and militant activity sites, the military said.

Palestinian medics said 11 people were wounded, one of them seriously.

Muhannad Jbara, a lawyer for Abu Khder's family, said the police had been in touch late on Wednesday to formally confirm that a body found in a west Jerusalem forest was that of their son.

Witnesses told AFP the youngster was forced into a black Honda Civic by "two Israelis" with a third in the driving seat. It then drove off at high speed, evading two cars which tried to follow.

The killing drew condemnation from around the world, including from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which said the abduction and murder of civilians "must stop now".

Tensions have soared since June 12 when the three Israeli teenagers disappeared in the West Bank, triggering a vast search and arrest operation across the territory.

Their bodies were found on Monday, but the hunt for the killers continues, with troops arresting another 13 Palestinians on Wednesday night, the army said.

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