Criticized for 24-Hour Delay, State Dept. Condemns Terrorist Murder of American Teen in Israel

By Zachary Leshin | November 24, 2015 | 3:49 PM EST

The New England Patriots during a moment of silence to honor Ezra Schwartz, a Massachusetts teen killed in a terrorist attack in Israel on Nov. 19, 2015. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned the murder of an American teen in Israel more than 24 hours after the terrorist attack that killed him, and only after the Obama administration was sharply criticized for not acknowledging his death.

Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old American citizen from Sharon, Mass., was killed last Thursday when a Palestinian Arab gunman opened fire with an Uzi submachine gun on cars stuck in traffic at Gush Etzion Junction south of Jerusalem, according to The Times of Israel.

The attack killed three people, including Schwartz, who had recently graduated from high school and was in Israel as part of a gap year program.

He was on his way to do volunteer work at Oz VeGaon, a park built in memory of three other teenagers who were kidnapped and killed by Hamas in June 2014, when he was killed.

Several Republican presidential candidates, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), condemned the attack shortly after it occurred.

However, the lack of response from the Obama administration prompted a petition to be filed on WhiteHouse.gov.

“On November 19, 2015, Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year old American citizen from Sharon, MA, was murdered by a terrorist while on his way to do volunteer charity work. The government of the United States of America has failed to publicly acknowledge Ezra's murder and has taken no action to condemn the terror attack that took three lives,” the petition stated.

“We respectfully request that President Obama publicly acknowledge the senseless killing of Ezra Schwartz, condemn the attack and rebuke the Palestinian Authority for claiming that the third victim of this attack, an Israeli Arab, was killed by Israeli forces, when not a single shot was fired by Israeli military or law enforcement and the terrorist was taken into custody unharmed. Such lies are irresponsible and incite further terrorism,” the petition concluded.

Although the petition did not garner the 100,000 signatures needed to receive a response from the White House, both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry called Schwartz's parents on Monday, after the petition was filed, to offer their condolences.

The New England Patriots also held a moment of silence on Monday honoring Schwartz prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

On Tuesday while travelling in Israel, Kerry said: “No people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives, or scissors, or cars.

“And it is very clear to us that these acts of terrorism which have been taking place deserve the condemnation that they are receiving, and today I express my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives or disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation.”

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