A Tampa, Florida boy who was visiting relatives in Jerusalem when he was grabbed by undercover Israeli officers and badly beaten in the face and head received a visit from U.S. officials Saturday, in advance of his court hearing Sunday.
Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burned to death on Wednesday morning, apparently by the same group of Israelis who were seen forcing him into a car outside a mosque in Shu’fat, East Jerusalem just before 4 am on Wednesday. Despite video footage of the abduction, and the license plate number having been captured by eyewitnesses, the Israeli police have failed to identify or detain the killers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
The day after his cousin’s murder, 15-year old Tariq was grabbed by undercover Israeli forces in Shu’fat, where protests had broken out calling for justice for Mohammed. A witness in a nearby apartment building captured video footage of the attack, which shows three men holding and repeatedly beating a prone Palestinian with their fists and other objects.
He was then carried into a police van and taken into custody with dozens of other Palestinians who had been swept up in the police crackdown on the protests. Police denied him medical treatment for over five hours, despite his badly-swollen head and broken nose.
Representative of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem confirmed that officials had visited Tariq, who is still in Israeli custody, on Saturday, and issued a statement that “We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody, and strongly condemn any excessive use of force.”
U.S. officials rarely intervene in cases involving Palestinians detained or brutalized by Israeli forces, even when those detained are U.S. citizens. In this case, however, with extensive family connections across the U.S., the Abu Khdeir family have pressured U.S. officials to take action – particularly since the family has already suffered the loss of 16-year old Mohammed, who was burned to death, presumably by Israeli settlers, on Wednesday.