Israeli authorities arrested six Israelis for last week’s kidnapping and brutal murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian in East Jerusalem on Sunday. Today, Israeli police said three of the suspects confessed to the crime after a gag order was partially lifted on the investigation.
Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s body was found outside of East Jerusalem on Wednesday; an autopsy revealed that he may have been burned alive. Police believe it was a revenge attack carried out by right-wing Jewish extremists for the June 12 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens.
Abu Khdeir’s killing and subsequent funeral on Friday set off riots in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, where thousands of Palestinians rallied against his murder and the spate of recent attacks by right-wing nationalistic Israelis.
Israel has blamed the kidnapping of the three teens on Hamas, the militant group based in the Gaza Strip. Soon after the bodies of the Israeli teens were found in the West Bank, the Israeli military launched a series of air strikes and bombings across Gaza. Dozens of homemade rockets had been fired from Gaza into Israel in recent days.
The aerial pounding of Gaza intensified last night, causing the death toll to rise to nine. Some reports indicated seven of the Palestinians killed were Hamas members, six of whom were killed in a tunnel crossing in Rafah. The Israeli military denied they died as a result of the bombing campaign.
Two teenage girls, a child, and two other men were also reportedly injured in the attacks.
Israeli’s military assault on the Gaza Strip came as video footage emerged this past weekend of three Israeli Border police officers brutally beating a 15-year-old Palestinian during a protest on Thursday in east Jerusalem. Tariq Abu Khieder — the cousin of Abu Khdeir — was arrested in Shuafat during a protest of the killing of Abu Khdeir. He was arrested for allegedly throwing pipe bombs at Israeli police.
Israeli forces detained Tariq for three days; he was denied medical treatment for nearly 24 hours. He was later released on bail and sentenced to house arrest, though he had not been charged with any crime.
Tariq is an American citizen from Florida who was visiting his family in Jerusalem for the summer.
Speaking to a reporter from the Washington Post, Tariq denied that he participated in any violent protests, saying that he was just trying to get away from tear gas when three Israeli policemen tackled him to the ground.
“There’s no charge on him. Why are [the Israeli authorities] putting him on house arrest?” asked his mother, Suha Abu Khdeir. “It makes no sense. I’m American, I know American law, and this doesn't happen in America.”
Shortly after the video surfaced, the US State Department issued a statement calling for an investigation.
“We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “We are calling for a speedy, transparent, and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.”
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, acknowledged that the treatment of Tariq was “very disturbing” and promised that Israel’s justice department would investigate the beating. However, he added that, “Our police are under extreme threat in the Jerusalem area. They're facing mobsters and rioters.”
Israeli security forces arrested about 110 Palestinians in Israel Sunday night during dozens of night raids throughout Arab villages inside Israel, bringing the total number of Palestinians arrested in the past three days to 277, according to Palestinian reports.
Multiple human rights organizations have condemned Israel’s recent crackdown in the West Bank and its policy of mass detention. Defense for Children International Palestine, an NGO that monitors the treatment of Palestinian children, issued a statement yesterday condemning Israel’s treatment of Tariq, yet also offered a reminder that he is just one of hundreds of Palestinians teens routinely arrested by Israel.
Human Rights Watch issued a report July 3 entitled “Israel: Serious Violations in West Bank Operations,” which offered a similar condemnation of Israel’s recent crackdown.
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