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Family say Israeli police beat up cousin of murdered Palestine teen

Fifteen-year-old Tariq Khdeir from Florida said he was watching protests about the abduction and murder of his cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, when he was beaten and kicked unconscious by Israeli security officers.

WASHINGTON: The family of a Palestinian-American teenager placed under house arrest by Israel have been speaking out in the United States.

Fifteen-year-old Tariq Khdeir from Florida said he was watching protests about the abduction and murder of his cousin, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, when he was beaten and kicked unconscious by Israeli security officers.

Israeli police said Tariq was attacking them.

His family, based in Florida and Washington DC, have been putting up their side of the story as the wider crisis engulfs the Middle East.

An video posted online appears to show two Israeli policemen punching, kicking, and stomping fifteen-year-old Palestinian-American. 

Tariq's family say he was merely observing protests against the death of his cousin, Mohammed, who was abducted and killed in Jerusalem last week.

Tariq said he did not know why he was being attacked.

Israeli authorities say they've already arrested a number of suspects over Mohammed's death, and are investigating what happened to Tariq.

But Tariq's family back in the US state of Florida are shocked.

"Had he known that Israeli police were going to come and ambush and attack him in his own uncle's back yard, he would not have gone, said his aunt Sanah Abu Khdeir.

She added: "There's no way he would have stepped over there. He's scared of even watching the news - imagine being in the middle of it."

However, Tariq, and what happened to him and his cousin, is now in the middle of a bigger conflagration across the Middle East, with rocket fire and air attacks being traded between the Israelis and Palestinians.

At the headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington DC, another branch of the Abu Khdeirs say this isn't the outcome they want.

Tariq’s cousin Hakeim Abu Khdeir said: "I just want peace for both sides. Both sides lost loved ones. In recent news, the mother of Mohammed, my aunt, met with one of the kidnapped Israeli teens' mothers, and they did share a moment, and if they can share a moment, I feel everyone in the world can sit down and look for peace."

Maria Baroody, aunt of Tariq, said: "What would you do if someone from your country was kidnapped, burned alive? Burned alive! The Palestinian people have put up with a lot. This is… this is too much. And I know that Israeli people have put up with a lot. For both, come on, we need to talk."

Following the collapse of the latest round of peace talks earlier this year, and the current cool relations between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, some experts are sceptical that the US can do much to stop the current escalation in violence.

Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, University of Maryland, said: “I'm just wondering whether there's anything really the US can do to stop the Israelis from carrying out an attack if they want to, or whether this is going to be entirely an internal political public opinion issue for the Israelis.

“I don't really see the US as having a particularly strong hand in stopping the Israelis from doing something they want to do in Gaza.”

Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said more American involvement could make a difference.

He explained: "I think there's a yearning for American visibility that's not there, and I would argue, it may not end the conflict, but it could save a few lives. At what cost? A few thousand dollars for airplane tickets? I think that's a worthy price."

The death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the beating of his cousin Tariq have inflamed already high tensions in the Middle East.

One year on from when Secretary of State John Kerry began a new round of peace talks here in Washington, the prospect of a solution to the conflict seems further away than ever. 

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