Six Israeli Youths Arrested In Death Of Palestinian Teen

NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to reporter Daniel Estrin about the latest out of Israel. Estrin spoke to the murdered Palestinian teen's American cousin, who was beaten and put under house arrest.

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Israel arrested six Israeli Jewish suspects today in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager. It's the first major development in a case that's sparked riots in Jerusalem and Arab towns in Israel. The teenager was seized from his home in East Jerusalem last week, and his charred body was found in a nearby forest. Officials say the autopsy shows he was burned to death.

The killing took place just hours after the burial of three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and killed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reporter Daniel Estrin is in Tel Aviv and joins me now. Daniel, who are these suspects who were arrested in Israel today?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Israeli officials didn't give a lot of details about who they are. There's a gag order on those details. But an anonymous Israeli official - renamed anonymous because the investigation is ongoing - gave me some details. The official said these are younger Israelis. Some of them are minors from Jerusalem - from a town near Jerusalem called (unintelligible) and from a West Bank settlement near Jerusalem. It's called Adam. He said a few other things. He said police located a car used by the suspects in the killing and - in the kidnapping and killing. He said that police learned that there was an attempted kidnapping, the previous day, of a child in the same neighborhood. And the police concluded that those two incidents were linked.

MCEVERS: And what is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying about all of this?

ESTRIN: Well, he spoke about it while visiting the family that the three Israelis who were kidnapped and killed. He offered his condolences to the family of the Palestinian teen who was killed. He said it was a horrible crime. He said the perpetrators will face the full weight of the law. But he also said this is an asymmetrical conflict. He said Israel puts murderers on trial, but the Palestinian Authority insights for the destruction of Israel. He said Israel - in Israel, there's no place for Israelis who kill Palestinians. They're put in prison if they do so. But in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, he said, there are public squares named after Palestinians who have killed Israelis.

MCEVERS: This Palestinian teen who was killed, he has a cousin who went out and protested his death. He recently was taken into custody where he says - and he says he was beaten by Israeli police. I mean, we've seen pictures of his bruised and swollen face online. Tell us who this is and what happened.

ESTRIN: His name is Tariq Abu Khdeir. He is 15-years-old. He lives in Florida. And he's here visiting his family on summer vacation. And his cousin is Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the teenager who was kidnapped and killed. He says he's the last - he was the last person to be with Mohammed before he was seized and killed. An amateur video, which aired on an Arab network, apparently shows him - Tariq, the cousin who lives in Florida who's visiting here - shows him apparently being beaten by Israeli security forces in one of the riots last week. His family says they recognize him in the video by his shirt - in that video footage.

I met Tariq this evening. He was brought before a court today, ordered under house arrest for nine days while police continue a criminal investigation. And you're right. He has two black eyes. He had stitches on his upper lip. And I asked him why he thought the Israeli security forces targeted him along with the group of others, and he said he wasn't demonstrating.

TARIQ ABU KHDEIR: It hurt. It hurt really bad. I was watching the whole protest.

ESTRIN: And why did they choose you?

KHDEIR: It was not just me. It was a group of people. I don't know why.

MCEVERS: Of course, Israeli officials say he was caught with a slingshot and resisted arrest. You also met Tariq's mother. What did she have to say?

ESTRIN: Well, his mother, Suha, refuted all of the police's accusations. The police said her son was caught wearing a Kafiya, an Arab headscarf, to mask his face - is what Palestinian demonstrators wear to conceal their identity. She said he wore that headscarf to protect himself from tear gas from Israeli security forces firing tear gas at the demonstrators. And police, as you said, also told reporters he was found carrying a slingshot to hurl rocks with. And here's what his mom, Suha, said.

MCEVERS: Thank you Daniel Estrin Tel Aviv. We've got to cut you off now. Thanks very much for joining us.

ESTRIN: OK. Thank you.

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