Palestinian teen from Tampa beaten, held in Jerusalem

By Chris Hopper, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, July 05, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

A Palestinian-American teenager from Tampa has been caught up in the rising tensions between Palestine and Israel.

Relatives say a video shot Thursday shows men in Israeli Security Forces uniforms pummeling Tariq Khdeir, a 15-year-old student who attends Universal Academy of Florida high school in Tampa and was in Jerusalem visiting relatives.

The video shows two men brutally beating someone outside a home this week, kicking and punching the person more than 20 times before carrying his limp body into a group of people.

The Council on American Islamic Relations says Khdeir's family claims the teen is incarcerated and chained to a bed with a broken nose and broken chin.

Khdeir is the cousin of a Palestinian teenager who was abducted and killed in Jerusalem this week. According to Palestinian General Prosecutor Mohammed al-Auwewy, an autopsy showed that 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeair was burned alive and hit with a blunt object.

Tariq Khdeir was outside the home of his cousin when he was beaten. Tensions had already risen sharply in the region after three Israeli teens were found dead in the West bank.

"It's so hard just thinking about this; I'm dried out of tears i can't even cry anymore," Tariq Khdeir's aunt told Bay News 9. "He's got a broken jaw. He's only 15. ... He has a broken nose, swollen-shut eyes, two black eyes and a swollen head."

The aunt, whose identity Bay News 9 is withholding for her safety, said she is trying to contain her anger and frustration.

The U.S. State Department said it's aware of the reports of Khdeir's detention, but it cannot comment due to privacy considerations.

The teen was visiting Shuafat, Jerusalem, when the attack occurred, his aunt and uncle said. The relatives did not want to be named for fear of reprisals against the family in Shuafat.

An Israeli police spokesman confirmed security forces have been operating in Shuafat, but declined to provide additional details, when asked about the beating videos and the American teen in custody.

Israel's Arabs, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, hold citizenship rights. But they often face discrimination and identify with the Palestinians.

Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem also used an electric saw to damage the light rail that connects the heavily Arab populated eastern sector of the city with the mostly Jewish West, Samri said.

The chaos began after three Israeli teenagers, one of whom was a U.S. citizen, were abducted in the West Bank on June 12, sparking a huge manhunt that ended with the gruesome discovery of their bodies earlier this week. The unrest escalated in east Jerusalem on Wednesday after Abu Khdeir's burned body was found in a forest.

Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing the boy to avenge the deaths of the Israeli teens. Israeli police said an investigation is still underway and they have not yet determined who killed the boy or why.

Israeli leaders widely condemned the killing of the Arab youth, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice.

Information from CNN and the Associated Press was included in this report.