White House hosts US-Palestinian teen beaten by Israeli cops

Abu Khdeir family seeks assurances from US officials that son Tariq, 16, won’t be detained during upcoming visit to Israel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US-Palestinian Florida resident Tariq Abu Khdeir, who was seen in a video being beaten by Israeli police, speaks of his ordeal. (screen capture: YouTube/CAIRtv)
US-Palestinian Florida resident Tariq Abu Khdeir, who was seen in a video being beaten by Israeli police, speaks of his ordeal. (screen capture: YouTube/CAIRtv)

White House National Security Council staffers recently hosted a US-Palestinian teenager who was beaten by Israeli riot police last year to review “pending issues related to his case,” CNN reported on Monday.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 16, met with officials at the White House on April 15 to discuss matters related to his family’s planned visit to Jerusalem later this year.

“The US government has remained closely engaged with Tariq and his family since his return from Jerusalem,” a White House official told CNN. “As part of the follow-up on pending issues related to his case, National Security Council staff met with the Abu Khdeirs recently.”

The Tampa teenager — of Palestinian descent — and his family plan to return to Jerusalem in the summer to visit relatives in the Shuafat neighborhood of the capital.

Abu Khdeir’s family sought assurances from the White House that it would not suffer any retaliation for the events following the teen’s beating in July 2014.

“I’m hoping that they can do something to help us as far as we don’t endure any difficulties on our travels when we get there,” said Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha.

In January, Israel dropped all charges against Abu Khdeir, who was 15 at the time, for his alleged participation in a July riot.

Abu Khdeir was visiting family in Jerusalem last July when his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burned to death by Jewish extremists. The murder, in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens earlier that month, sparked weeks of rioting in the capital.

During the clashes between stone-throwers and Israeli security forces in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, the US teen was arrested and badly beaten by three Israeli Border Policemen, in an incident captured on video.

While police asserted that Abu Khdeir was armed with a slingshot and was actively participating in the riot, he and his family denied direct involvement. The teen was placed under house arrest for nine days before being allowed to return home to the US.

The footage quickly drew sharp international condemnation, including from Washington.

Following an internal police investigation in September 2014, one of the officers involved in the incident was criminally charged with assaulting a minor.

A senior administration official said that US representatives are in contact with Israel authorities about cases of US citizens who claim abuse at the hands of Israeli security forces, including that of Orwa Hammad, 14, who was killed last October in clashes with Israeli troops.

“We are working with the Israeli authorities and expect to receive a meaningful answer from the investigation into the American citizen’s death in Silwan in October,” the official said.

Hammad was born in New Orleans and came to the West Bank with his family when he was six.

The Israel Defense Forces told reporters at the time that the teen was shot as he was preparing to throw a firebomb at cars driving on Highway 60. The soldiers opened fire “in order to neutralize the threat to the lives of civilians driving on the highway,” the IDF Spokesman’s Department said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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