Middle East

US presses Israel over teen 'beaten' in Jerusalem

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Media captionTariq Khdair's family deny claims by Israeli police that he was among a group of masked Palestinians attacking police, as James Reynolds reports

The US State Department says it is "profoundly troubled" by reports that a US teenager was beaten while in Israeli police custody in East Jerusalem.

Tariq Khdair, 15, from Florida, is a cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdair, the Palestinian 16-year-old whose abduction and murder has triggered riots.

Israeli officials say they are looking into the incident. Police say the youth was among a group attacking officers.

However, his family deny that he was involved in the violence.

Unrest has spread from East Jerusalem to several Arab-Israeli towns after reports that an initial post-mortem examination found Mohammed Abu Khdair had been burned alive.

Mobile phone footage taken during Palestinian protests on Thursday appears to show two Israeli border policemen holding down Tariq Khdair on wasteland in East Jerusalem.

The footage shows one of the officers punching the teenager in the head before the boy is taken away. Photographs taken later show him with a severely swollen face.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tariq Khdair, who is still in custody, was visited by a consulate official on Saturday.

"We are profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force," she said.

"We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Suha Abu Khdair, mother of Tariq Khdair, 15, shows a photo of him taken in hospital after he was arrested
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israeli police detained some Palestinian protesters during clashes in the northern Arab-Israeli city of Arara

The Israeli Justice Ministry said the police investigations department was looking into the incident.

Thousands attended Mohammad Abu Khdair's funeral on Friday near the family's home in the Shufat district of East Jerusalem.

His family believe he was killed by Jewish extremists in revenge for the murders of three Israeli teenagers - Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both aged 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach.

Their bodies were found near the West Bank city of Hebron on 30 June and their funerals were held on Wednesday.

Mohammad Abu Khdair was seen being forced into a car in Shufat early on Wednesday and his body was later found in West Jerusalem.

Palestinian attorney-general Mohammed al-A'wewy said that initial autopsy results showed the direct cause of death "was burns as a result of fire".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Israel says its Iron Dome air defence system has intercepted rockets fired by militants from the Gaza Strip

"The results show he was breathing while on fire," he said.

Israeli authorities say the circumstances surrounding the teenager's death are still unclear.

However, the deaths of the four teenagers have led to a steep rise in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hundreds of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli police in East Jerusalem before and after Friday's funeral and the violence later spread into the West Bank and to Israeli-Arab towns in northern Israel.

Disturbances were reported in Taibe and Tira and clashes were also reported in the central town of Qalansawe, with Jewish drivers attacked and some cars torched.

In Qalansawe on Saturday, dozens of masked protesters burned tyres on the main road, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The road between Qalansawe and Taibeh was closed and other roads in the north were also shut intermittently as police dealt with renewed protests, it added.

More rockets have also been fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, despite reports that a ceasefire was being brokered by Egyptian intelligence officials.

Israel said on Saturday it had retaliated with air strikes on militant targets in Gaza.