The Border Policeman indicted for beating US-Palestinian citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, in July spoke out about the incident, saying he felt he was in mortal danger during the riots, and that Abu Khdeir refused to release his grasp on a slingshot.
“While I am running [amid the riots], I notice that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at my friend,” the policeman was quoted by Channel 2 as saying on Sunday. “I continue running and identify a group of eight people with their faces covered, armed with slingshots. I also saw knives.”
The cop said that he and his colleagues had been given orders not to open fire on the protesters, despite the fact that bombs were being used against them. “Pipe bombs were thrown, some of them exploded; luckily no one was killed.”
The beating, caught on camera, took place three days after Tariq’s cousin, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, was killed in an alleged revenge attack by Jewish extremists in Jerusalem.
“According to the intelligence, an armed individual was about to emerge from the riots and fire at Border Policemen. The rules of engagement we received were very strict. If we are talking about a Molotov cocktail thrown at you, you cannot open fire,” the cop added.
The policeman justified striking the teen as well. “When I saw his wounds — and I’m a medic — I gave instructions for him to be evacuated for treatment. I couldn’t know it was a minor; his face was covered with a keffiyeh.
“I started to strike him in the hands and shoulders to get him to let go of the slingshot. We started to carry him, but he didn’t cooperate. I wanted to lift him, and an uncontrolled movement came out of me as a result of the adrenaline and the feeling of danger. The ground was dangerous, I felt I was in lethal danger.”
An indictment filed by the Israel Police with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court two weeks ago charges the officer with assault against a minor.
The Justice Ministry said a police investigation concluded that “evidence was found supporting the guilt of the police officer suspected of severe violent crimes.” It did not name the officer charged, nor did it say what indictments he would face.
On July 5, Abu Khdeir was arrested in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat during clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli riot police. The teenager, who lives in Florida, maintained that he was not involved in the protests and was trying to run away from the violence when he was chased by three members of the Israeli security forces, who caught and attacked him.
Police asserted, however, that Tariq Abu Khdeir resisted arrest, attacked officers and was carrying a slingshot for lobbing stones when he was arrested.
The US State Department said in response that it was “profoundly troubled” by reports of his beating and demanded an investigation.
Police launched an official investigation into the incident after a video surfaced purportedly showing the beating, and was widely circulated online.
Faced with considerable US pressure, Israeli authorities released Abu Khdeir three days after he was arrested, and pictures showed him with his face swollen and heavily bruised.
In an interview with AP, Abu Khdeir said that he was slammed down, head-first, when he was detained. He added that his hands were tied behind his back and he was kicked in the face, stomach and ribs and was unconscious for a time. He was taken to jail where he was blindfolded, he added.
After another cousin of the slain East Jerusalem teenager was arrested on July 28, also a US citizen, the State Department accused Israel of “singling out” his relatives.
Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the US was “concerned that the US consulate general in Jerusalem was not notified of his arrest by the government of Israel.”
And “we are also concerned about the fact that members of the Khdeir family appeared to be singled out for arrest by the Israeli authorities,” Harf added.
Muhammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was snatched from his East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat on July 2, and was found burned to death in the Jerusalem Forest hours later. Three Jewish suspects were arrested in connection to the attack, and confessed that they had carried out the attack in retaliation for the June 12 abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.
Marissa Newman and news agencies contributed to this report.