State Department 'Troubled' By Reports Of Teen's Beating In Israel

Tensions are high following the murder of three young Israelis and a Palestinian teen. Relatives of the murdered Palestinian say his American cousin was beaten by Israeli police during a protest.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Rachel Martin. Tensions remain high following the murder of a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem whose charred body was found last week in a nearby forest. A Palestinian official says the autopsy suggests the teen was burned alive. An Israeli officials says a number of Jewish suspects have been arrested. That investigators believe the motives were, quote, "nationalistic." Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of kidnapping and killing the teen in revenge for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. Yesterday, demonstrators clashed with police in a number of Arab towns in Israel while militants in the Gaza Strip launched dozens of rockets and mortars toward Israel. Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Just before dawn, Israel's army struck ten rockets and weapon sites in the Gaza Strip in response to at least 29 rockets and mortars that militants fired toward Israel over the weekend. Two of those rockets reached the southern city of Be'er Sheva, deeper into Israel than any other rocket attack in the current hostilities. The rockets were intercepted by an antimissile battery. But just hours after Israel responded with air strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that Israel would act with calm.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEETING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Hebrew spoken).

ESTRIN: Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, quote, "experience proves that in moments like these, one must act calmly and responsibly, not hysterically and hastily" Israel hasn't seen moments like these since the second Palestinian intifada a decade ago. Police said they arrested at least 22 Arab citizens of Israel in clashes with police. Police say hundreds of demonstrators hurled rocks and fire bombs at police who responded with stun grenades and tear gas. In one instance, according to police, Arab-Israelis ordered a Jewish-Israeli out of his car and burned the car.

Netanyahu said insiders cannot benefit from Israeli Social Security on one hand, and on the other hand, violate Israeli law. Israel's Foreign Minister said over the weekend that the Arab-Israeli demonstrations show that, quote, "their place is not in Israel." He's long advocated for Arab areas in Israel to be transferred to Palestinian control in a peace deal, which Arab-Israelis oppose. Arab-Israelis are full citizens of Israel but complain of discrimination. Clashes mostly died down Sunday, but tensions remain. Police said they are looking for suspects after a group of Palestinians attacked a Jewish woman, injuring her lately in Jerusalem's Old City. And Israel said it had opened an investigation after a video aired on an Arab network appeared to show Israeli forces beating a youth during last week's riots in Jerusalem. The youth's parents say that he is Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old U.S. citizen from Tampa, Florida who was visiting his relatives in Jerusalem. They say he is the cousin of the Palestinian teen who was killed last week. And they say he was the last person to be with the teen before he was seized. His mother, Suha Abu Khdeir, told ABC News her son's face was unrecognizable from the beating.

(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)

SUHA ABU KHDEIR: Palestinians live like this every day. They kind of say, OK, we'll deal with it. But us, as Americans, it's just - it's not human.

ESTRIN: The U.S. State Department confirmed the young man's arrest and said it was, quote, "profoundly troubled by reports of the teen's beating." Israeli police say he was carrying a slingshot for hurling stones and attacked officers when he was detained. A Jerusalem court has sentenced the teen to nine days house arrest in east Jerusalem. For NPR News, I'm Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem.

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