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Diplomatic push and IDF threats said behind return of body seized by Palestinians

A large-scale international diplomatic effort took place to secure the release of the body of Tiran Fero, a Druze teenager whose remains were snatched from a hospital in the West Bank by terrorists this week, according to a Thursday report.

Citing Israeli and Western sources, Walla News reported that UN envoy to the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, even issued an appeal to the leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group in Damascus.

United States Security Coordinator General Michael Penzel was also involved in coordinating with the Palestinian Authority, the report said, noting that PA security services had been instructed to try to facilitate the body’s return.

Fero was seriously injured in a car crash in Jenin on Tuesday and was 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 head 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 that he had ties to PIJ.

The official noted that another relative of the group’s leader had recently been killed in a clash with IDF forces, and said his body was being held by Israel.

Tiran Fero. (courtesy)

Security officials said the suspects had demanded the release of Palestinians detained 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 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 massacre,” 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 that the body be released, 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 wide-ranging conflict that does not suit the PIJ at this time,” the Western diplomat said, according to the report.

The body was turned over to PA intelligence officials, who later took it to the Salem checkpoint, where it was handed over to Fero’s family. Hours later he was laid to rest.

The family of Tiran Fero, an Israeli teenager whose body was snatched from a hospital in the West Bank by Palestinian gunmen, meet with security officials as his body is returned to Israel, Nov. 23, 2022. (COGAT spokesperson)

Thousands of mourners walked in Fero’s funeral procession, in his predominantly Druze hometown of Daliyat al-Karmel in northern Israel, on what would have been his 18th birthday.

Although his family claimed Palestinian gunmen took him off life support when they snatched him from the hospital, the military and a senior defense source insisted he was already dead when he was taken.

His body was held for approximately 30 hours.

Israel has not given anything in exchange for the body, a senior defense source told reporters Thursday morning, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We have not negotiated with those who held the body. We have not returned anything,” said the source. “We have made it clear that this body will go back to the family. The Palestinian Authority pressed to end the saga quickly because of its embarrassment, and in Jenin the kidnappers lost support after the public understood that it would pay a heavy financial price.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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