José María Bermúdez de Castro, Director of Spain's National Center for the Research of Human Evolution (the "Atapuerca team"), writes today at Público newspaper[es] clarifying the matter: the human teeth found near Tel Aviv and hyped in the media as the first humans and blah-blah... are Neanderthal or quite so.
Some key excerpts (my translation and bold type):
(...) the authors offer three similarly likely hypothesis to interpret their findings. But then they adopt the one that can offer more notoriety and discard the one that, in my opinion, is the most likely one, judging from the excellent images of the findings. The teeth are very similar (if not identical) to those of Neanderthals (...)Eight teeth cannot be enough argumentation to demolish a hypothesis supported by dozens of works made in the fields of palaeoanthropology and genetics. I am persuaded that the authors are well aware of this. (...) Some media have been carried away by the symbolism of the region and of the Christmas period. I am afraid that some 400,000 years ago God did not inhabit the minds of human beings, or at least there is no data supporting such hypothesis.
I was admittedly waiting for some Atapuerca expert to demolish the wild and so-blatantly superstitious and populist conjecture. I did not have to wait much, thanks Jose Mari and thanks to Fonso for the link (at Mundo Neandertal[es], comments section).