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Six Israeli Youths Arrested In Death Of Palestinian Teen


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 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 Jerusalem and joins me now. And, 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 gave me some details. The official said these are younger Israelis - some of them are minors from Jerusalem - from Jerusalem, from a town near Jerusalem called Beit Shemesh and from a West Bank settlement, it's called Adam. He said a few other things. He said police learned that there was an attempted kidnapping the previous day or a child in the same neighborhood. And that police concluded that those two incidents were linked.

MCEVERS: What is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying about all this?

ESTRIN: 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 would face the full weight of the law. But he also said this a asymmetrical conflict. He said 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's 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. And amateur video, which aired on an Arab network, apparently shows Tariq being beaten by Israeli security forces in one of the riots last week. 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 has 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?

ABU 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. Police told reporters he was found carrying a slingshot to hurl rocks with. And here's what his mom Suha said about that.

SUHA ABU KHDEIR: Where's the slingshot they caught him with? They didn't bring it into the courtroom. They didn't mention it at all. We didn't hear of no slingshot when we were in the courtroom. So I'm thinking they're trying to frame him somehow.

ESTRIN: The police said her son was caught were a Kafiya, an Arab headscarf, to mask his face, which 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.

MCEVERS: Reporter Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Thanks, Daniel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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