American teen beaten in Mideast returns to Florida

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American teen beaten in Mideast returns to Florida
Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, speaks during interview at his home, Sunday, July 20, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Khdeir flew home to Tampa last week and said in an interview Sunday that he hopes one day to visit loved ones anew and “come back safe.” Israeli authorities released Tariq three days after he was detained and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigated what they said was his participation in violent protests over the death of his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz)
Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, left, sits with his mother Suha Khdeir during interview in their home, Sunday, July 20, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Tariq Abu Khdeir flew home to Tampa last week and said in an interview Sunday that he hopes one day to visit loved ones anew and “come back safe.” Israeli authorities released Tariq three days after he was detained and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigated what they said was his participation in violent protests over the death of his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz)
Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, left, sits with his mother Suha Khdeir during interview in their home, Sunday, July 20, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Tariq Abu Khdeir flew home to Tampa last week and said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press he hopes one day to visit loved ones anew and “come back safe.” Israeli authorities released Tariq three days after he was detained and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigated what they said was his participation in violent protests over the death of his cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz)
This image from an AP video shows Tariq Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian-American teen who relatives allege was beaten by Israeli authorities earlier this month addressing the media after arriving at at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday night, July 16, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/AP Video)
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JULY 07: In this handout photo provided by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) stands with Tariq Khdeir as he meets with family members of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 7, 2014. 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. The charred body of Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, 16, was found in a forest near Jerusalem in a suspected 'revenge' attack by Jewish settlers for the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers who went missing from a West Bank settlement. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JULY 07: In this handout photo provided by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) checks the face of Tariq Khdeir (2nd L) as he meets with family members of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 7, 2014. 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. The charred body of Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, 16, was found in a forest near Jerusalem in a suspected 'revenge' attack by Jewish settlers for the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers who went missing from a West Bank settlement. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JULY 07: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (2nd R) checks the face of Tariq Khdeir (2nd L) as he meets with family members of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 7, 2014. 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. The charred body of Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, 16, was found in a forest near Jerusalem in a suspected 'revenge' attack by Jewish settlers for the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers who went missing from a West Bank settlement. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JULY 07: Tariq Khdeir and the mother of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not seen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 7, 2014. 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. The charred body of Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, 16, was found in a forest near Jerusalem in a suspected 'revenge' attack by Jewish settlers for the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers who went missing from a West Bank settlement. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JULY 07: Tariq Khdeir (2nd L) and the mother (3rd L) and father of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 7, 2014. 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. The charred body of Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, 16, was found in a forest near Jerusalem in a suspected 'revenge' attack by Jewish settlers for the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers who went missing from a West Bank settlement. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JULY 07: Tariq Khdeir and the mother of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not seen) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 7, 2014. 15-year-old American citizen Tariq Khdeir was beaten by Israeli policemen and arrested on Thursday during the funeral of his cousin Mohamed, who was abducted and killed by suspected Jewish settlers on Wednesday. The charred body of Palestinian teen Mohamed Abu Khdeir, 16, was found in a forest near Jerusalem in a suspected 'revenge' attack by Jewish settlers for the recent killing of three Israeli teenagers who went missing from a West Bank settlement. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir released in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir released and spoke to media in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir (C) released in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir and his mother Suha Abu Khdeir are seen on the photo after he released in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir released in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir released in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JULY 6: 15-year-old, U.S. citizen Tariq Abu Khdeir (on the photo) released in Jerusalem, Israel on 6 July, 2014. Tariq Abu Khdeir is the cousin of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who burned by Israeli extremists. Tariq Abu Khdeir was taken into custody during the protests after his cousin's funeral. He was beaten by Israeli police and suffered a broken nose, chin and injuries to his eyes. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Suha Abu Khdeir, mother of 15-year-old Tariq Abu Khdeir, a U.S. citizen who goes to school in Tampa, Florida, shows a mobile phone photo of Tariq taken in a hospital after he was beaten and arrested by the Israeli police during clashes sparked by the killing Thursday of his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir, in Jerusalem, Saturday, July 5, 2014. Israeli police spokeswoman, said that Tariq Abu Khdeir had resisted arrest and attacked police officers. Tariq’s father said he witnessed his son’s arrest and insisted the boy was not involved in the violence. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
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By JARED LEONE

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The Palestinian-American teenager who relatives allege was beaten by Israeli authorities returned home to Florida late Wednesday, saying he will never think of freedom in the same way again.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, and his mother flew back to Tampa on a flight arriving from New York and were greeted by about 50 cheering supporters waving American and Palestinian flags. The Khdeirs had flown out of Israel earlier in the day.

"I am only 15 but I will never think of freedom the same as I did two months ago," Tariq said upon arrival at Tampa International Airport. "No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die."

The teenager said the thoughts and prayers of the supporters had helped him, adding "I got through these past two weeks because I knew you were all thinking of me."

Now, he said, he just wanted some relaxation and time with friends. "It feels so good to be back in Tampa. Can I even put it in words? I can't wait to go back to play with my friends and go fishing," he added, speaking only minutes.

Hassan Shibly, the teen's attorney and the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, had said Monday that Tariq suffered head trauma and had to receive stitches on his face when beaten two weeks ago as he was arrested during a protest. Supporters say Tariq's beating was videotaped. The Israeli justice ministry has said an investigation has been opened into the footage.

There were no immediately apparent signs of injuries to Khdeir on his arrival.

Israeli authorities released Tariq shortly after his arrest and sentenced him to nine days of house arrest while they investigated what they say was his participation in violent protests over the death of Tariq's cousin, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir. His family denied that he participated in the protests. Palestinians suspect Mohammed Abu Khdeir was killed by Israeli extremists exacting revenge for the abduction and killings of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last month.

His mother, Suha Khdeir, said Wednesday in Tampa that the last two weeks had been a "nightmare." She wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke and added she was "grateful" for the support she received at home in the Tampa area.

"I cannot begin to describe to you the pain I felt when I looked at his face for the first time after that beating," she said.

Friends and family have said Tariq went on a vacation to visit relatives he hadn't seen in about 10 years - not to be part of a conflict. They have described him as a good student who likes basketball, soccer and video games.

Tariq's arrest happened shortly before Israel attacked Gaza to stop Hamas members from launching rockets into its territory. Earlier Wednesday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a five-hour U.N. brokered "humanitarian" pause to their 9-day-long battle, offering the most encouraging sign yet that the fierce fighting could come to an end. Israel's bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 200 Palestinians, including four boys struck on a beach Wednesday by shells fired from a navy ship.

The attorney Shibly said Monday that a complaint has been filed with the Israeli government by the teen's father.

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