By Mick Krever, CNN
A Palestinian-American teenager whose savage beating by Israeli police helped set off the current crisis described his shocking ordeal in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“They kicked me in the face. They kneed me in the face. They punched me in the face,” Tariq Khdeir said. “They were beating me like they had no – they didn’t know what they were doing. Why would they be beating me like that?”
Amateur video of Khdeir’s beating went viral and caused widespread outrage; Israeli authorities say they have suspended one of the police officers involved in the case.
Khdeir was born and grew up in the United States; he was in the West Bank visiting family when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and found dead in the West Bank.
Khdeir’s cousin, Mohammed Abu Khedair, was murdered in what was largely seen as a retaliatory attack for the Israelis’ death.
“I asked if he needed anything from the bakery,” he told Amanpour. “And he said sure, and I went to the bakery and I bought him some things.”
“And I came back and I found the cop car there. And then the cops told me … ‘You can’t get closer to the scene.’ And Mohammed wasn’t there.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called that murder “abhorrent” and in a phone call promised justice for the boy’s father.
The 15-year-old American was watching protests over his cousin’s death when events turned violent.
“I saw some soldiers running. And they were running towards the crowd of people and I was just watching. It was so terrifying.”
“When they were running towards us, I didn’t know where to go. Some people left from the outside and some people jumped the fence, and I jumped the fence and they ran behind me. And they grabbed me and slammed me to the floor.”
“The first thing they did, right when they grabbed me and slammed me to the floor, [is] they zip-tied my hands together behind my back so I couldn’t make any sudden movements at that point.”
“And they started beating me, and I could not – I could not even breathe at that point, because of them kicking me however many times.”
He was taken into police custody without, his mother Suha says, any medical treatment.
“He was taken straight to jail, even after being beaten unconscious,” she said. “My husband had followed him over there and he had begged for them to take him to the hospital.”
“And they claimed that they’d asked him, him being unconscious now when being beaten, and they said, well, he said he didn’t need any medical attention. And he says that’s not true – they never asked me anything.”
Outrage over Khdeir’s beating, his cousin’s death, and the murder of the three Israeli teens set off a series of escalating events that led, last week, to an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
“No mother should go through having to bury her own son, no matter what race they are,” Suha said. “I’m just hoping for peace. That’s what I can say.”
Tariq, so newly exposed to humanity’s darkest characteristics, summed it up succinctly: “It’s just sad.”
“What they go through, like the people that are dying in Gaza – it’s really sad to watch them have to be kicked out of their house and having to go through all that pain.”
“It’s really sad. Like, for me, it’s just – what happened to me was just a taste of what they go through. You have people dying all over there. It’s sad.”