TAMPA — A 15-year-old Tampa boy was badly beaten by Israeli police and booked into a Jerusalem prison following a violent protest late last week.
Tariq Abu Khdeir, an American citizen of Palestinian descent, has broken bones and is bleeding internally, family members said Saturday. He was arrested during a protest Thursday before the funeral of his 16-year-old cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, whom Palestinians say was killed by Israeli extremists in a revenge attack.
Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s body was found Wednesday, and autopsy results revealed he was burned alive. Riots erupted in east Jerusalem on Friday as thousands of Palestinians massed for the boy’s burial.
Tariq was one of several protesters arrested, the Associated Press reported. A spokeswoman for the Israeli police said he was resisting arrest and using a slingshot to hurl stones at officers.
Tariq’s father, who witnessed his son’s arrest, said that is not true.
“He’s an American kid arrested in the midst of a war zone,” his aunt, Sanah Abu Khdeir told The Tampa Tribune on Saturday.
Tariq was treated briefly at an Israeli hospital before he was taken to jail, family members said. His parents released photographs showing the boy’s swollen and bloodied face.
Family members worried he is not getting adequate medical treatment in jail and his parents have not been allowed to see him, Sanah Abu Khdeir said. A representative from the U.S. Consulate in Israel met briefly with Tariq on Saturday afternoon, his aunt said, but they can’t do anything else for him until he makes his first court appearance, which was scheduled for Sunday morning.
“He is 15 years old,” said Sanah Abu Khdeir, who lives in Tampa and is the sister of Tariq’s mother. “He’s a typical American boy, confused and lost.”
Tariq and his family have been in Jerusalem, seeing relatives, since early June, she said. The family had gone to visit relatives they have not seen in more than a decade, and the trip was Tariq’s reward for getting good grades in school.
He is heading into his sophomore year at Universal Academy of Florida, a private Islamic school on Orient Road. He plays on the soccer team and is a member of the fishing club.
Tariq was one of the last people to see his cousin before he was kidnapped and slain, Sanah Abu Khdeir said.
The teen’s charred body was found in a forest after he was seized near his home. Palestinians immediately accused Israeli extremists of killing him to avenge the deaths of three Israeli teens who were abducted and killed in the West Bank.
Israeli police said an investigation is underway and they have not determined who killed the boy or why.
Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, told The New York Times that a video of police officers beating Tariq, which has been circulated by human rights groups, was “edited and biased” and did not represent the scope of the events.
“Hundreds of rioters, many of them masked, hurled at the forces pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones,” Rosenfeld told the Times. “Preliminary investigation of the details of the incident shown in the video indicates that there were six masked Palestinians, and that three of them were armed with knives. They resisted arrest and attacked the officers.”
After his cousin’s death, his aunt said, Tariq participated in the protest but was unarmed.
Sanah Abu Khdeir helped organize a rally and candlelight vigil for Tariq in Tampa on Saturday night.
Another protest was scheduled for Sunday morning, outside the U.S. embassy in Israel.
Tariq was eager to go to Jerusalem and learn about his roots, his aunt said. After all that he witnessed, she can’t imagine what is going through his mind while he sits next to strangers in an Israeli prison. Tariq’s younger sisters, ages 10 and 5, think their brother is going to be killed.
“It’s a very tough time for my family,” Sanah Abu Khdeir said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.