A 15-year-old American high school student from Tampa who was allegedly assaulted by Israeli police was released Sunday after being held without charges since Thursday. Tariq Abu Khdeir, whose cousin was abducted and brutally murdered last week, had a badly swollen face on Sunday when he talked to journalists outside the courtroom and said he was the victim of an unprovoked beating. His release came after a video aired on Palestinian television that appears to show plain-clothes Israeli security officers beating him up. “They repeatedly stomp and punch his head, even as the body hangs motionless,” notes ABC News. An Israeli court sentenced him to nine days of house arrest for attacking police officers.
The State Department is calling for explanations: “We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, according to the Hill. “We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.”
The high school sophomore says he was watching the protesters when he was attacked. “I was actually brutally attacked from the side. I heard somebody screaming and he came and attacked me and I actually went unconscious, and I woke up in the hospital," he told ABC News. "I was screaming, I was just screaming when they hit me." He can travel back to the United States if the investigation ends without charges. But his mother told CNN the family will “definitely” sue Israeli authorities.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States hinted there’s more to the story than meets the eye. He “was not an innocent bystander pulled out of the school yard,” Ron Dermer told Fox News. "He was with six other people. They were masked. They threw petrol bombs and Molotov cocktails at our police. Three of them had knives, from what I understand.” Still, that “doesn’t excuse the use of excessive force,” he added.
Meanwhile, six Jewish suspects who apparently had “nationalistic” motives have been arrested for the brutal killing of Khdeir’s cousin in East Jerusalem last week. The Israeli government had largely stayed silent on the case but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the “horrific crime” on Sunday, saying the perpetrators would “face the full weight of the law,” reports the New York Times. The suspects are young males, including several minors, an official tells the Associated Press.
The abduction and killing of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir on Wednesday sparked protests and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem and northern Israel and there are fears it could lead to a new intifada, or uprising. The arrests come after days of Palestinian complaints that Israeli authorities were not moving quickly enough to solve the grisly slaying, and anger was fueled yesterday by a preliminary autopsy report that suggests Khdeir had been burned alive.