WASHINGTON (AFP) - A “profoundly troubled” United States condemned reports Saturday that an American teenager detained in Israel was “severely beaten” while in police custody, amid heightened tensions with Palestinians.
The parents of Tariq Abu Khder, a 15-year-old cousin of a Palestinian youth murdered earlier this week, have told AFP that their son was arrested in Shuafat after being beaten by police on Thursday during his holiday stay in the area.
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the United States “strongly condemn(s) any excessive use of force,” referring to the alleged beating.
Clashes have erupted in recent days, sparked by the abduction and murder of Tariq’s cousin Mohammed Abu Khder, 16, as autopsy reports showed he was burned alive.
Palestinians said Jewish extremists killed him in revenge for the kidnapping and murder in the West Bank last month of three Israeli teenagers.
Tariq was still in Israeli custody, Psaki confirmed, adding that a US consulate official had visited him Saturday.
“We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody,” Psaki said in a statement.
“We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.” Rocket fire targeting Israel from Gaza has also increased, raising fears of an escalation with the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave.
“We reiterate our grave concern about the increasing violent incidents, and call on all sides to take steps to restore calm and prevent harm to innocents,” Psaki said.
A video circulating on social media (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDENWwEDGr4) shows what appears to be Israeli border police beating and kicking a handcuffed semi-conscious figure – believed to be Tariq – before dragging him away.
The parents, who saw their son in an Israeli hospital, said they were told Tariq had been arrested for being masked.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri could not confirm it was Tariq in the video, but said the footage was from the arrest of a group of six Palestinians, including Tariq.
The justice ministry, meanwhile, said it was investigating the video.
Samri said police found a sling on Tariq, who had attacked police and resisted arrest, while others were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, wounding six police.
Tariq is due to appear before a Jerusalem court on Sunday.