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Middle East

Israel-Gaza conflict: Beaten Palestinian-American teenager Tariq Khdeir returns to Florida

Khdeir claims he was beaten by masked Israeli police officers

A Palestinian-American teenager who was allegedly detained in Israel and beaten by masked police called the experience the “scariest” of his life during a press conference following his return home on Wednesday.

15-year-old Tariq Khdeir was welcomed by cheering relatives, friends and media at Tampa International Airport, in his home state of Florida.

The once obvious bruises on his face that had triggered a probe into complaints that he was beaten while in Israeli police custody were significantly faded.

Khdeir told reporters that he believes his story drew outrage largely because he was a US citizen, and called his attack by masked police “the scariest thing that has happened to me.”

“You only know my story because I am an American,” he said. “I am only 15, but I will never think about freedom in the same way,” he added.

His Friends and relatives in Florida were anxious for him to be evaluated by US doctors, as the teenager’s father complained that Israeli officers denied his son proper medical treat.

Khdeir went on holiday in the city of Jerusalem with his parents and younger sisters earlier this month, to visit his Palestinian relatives.

He was arrested during protests after his 16-year-old cousin, Mohammed Abu Khudair, was abducted and killed in early July – part of a series of events which triggered the current crisis in between Gaza and Israel.

Khdeir has said he was not involved in clashes with police prior to his detention along with five other protesters.

Video: Khdeir was held under house arrest for nine days

He and his mother asked supporters to remember all the children killed in recent weeks during the resurgent Israeli-Palestinian violence.

“They have names like mine,” Khdeir said. “No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die that way.”

Khdeir told reporters that he is now looking forward to returning to his private Islamic school in Tampa, and going fishing with his friends.

Additional reporting by AP