JERUSALEM/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States called for speedy investigation of an incident in which a 15-year-old American of Palestinian descent appeared to have been badly beaten by Israeli paramilitary police during riots in East Jerusalem.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that the teen, Tariq Khdeir, was being held by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem and said a consular officer visited him 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. We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force,” Psaki said.
A video clip circulated on the Internet on Saturday showed two Israeli border police holding down and repeatedly pummelling a masked youth before carrying him away.
The family of Khdeir, from Tampa, Florida, who was visiting relatives in East Jerusalem, say he was the target of the punches, although the footage is blurred and the victim cannot be identified as he appears also to be wearing a head covering.
A later part of the video shows Khdeir’s face with a heavy black eye and swollen lip. He is a cousin of Mohammed Abu-Khdeir, the youth whom Palestinians believe was abducted and murdered by far-right Israelis on Wednesday.
The Israeli Justice Ministry said in a statement that the police investigations department was looking into the incident.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Khdeir was one of six rioters caught and detained in the incident, three of whom were found to be carrying knives.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida on Friday said Khdeir was American-born and called on the State Department to seek the teenager’s release.
Writing by Ori Lewis; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Ralph Boulton and Leslie Adler