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Israeli soldiers fired over killing of elderly Palestinian US national

Relatives mourn during the funeral ceremony held for 80-year-old Palestinian Omar As'ad, at Jiljilya village in Ramallah, West Bank on 13 January 2022 [Ahmad Arouri/ApaImages]
Relatives mourn during the funeral ceremony held for Palestinian Omar As'ad, who was found dead after being detained by Israeli troops in the West Bank on 13 January 2022 [Ahmad Arouri/ApaImages]

Two Israeli military officers will be fired from their positions while a third, a battalion commander, will be reprimanded over the death of an elderly Palestinian-American found dead after being detained by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Israeli military's statement, the death of Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, who had lived in Milwaukee before retiring to his native Palestinian hometown of Jiljilya, resulted from "a moral failure and poor decision-making".

The 78-year-old had been handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded for between 20 minutes and an hour, before his body was discovered by local residents and others detained in the 12 January raid, after the soldiers left.

As'ad's nephew, Assad Assad, said others who were detained at the checkpoint told family members that the soldiers dragged As'ad out of his car, threw him to the ground and shackled his hands and feet with zip ties, then fled after he died on the spot.

The IDF's disciplinary probe found "an ethical failure by the soldiers and a mistake in their thought process, alongside a severe violation of the value of respecting people," the military said.

However, it added, "The soldiers did not identify signs of distress or other suspicious signs concerning As'ad's health. The soldiers assessed that As'ad was asleep and did not try to wake him. The investigation concluded that the incident was a grave and unfortunate event, resulting from a moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers."

READ: Israel killed 313 Palestinians in 2021

An autopsy conducted by the Palestinian Authority determined that he had died of a stress-induced heart attack, brought on by being bound and gagged. As'ad had previously undergone open-heart surgery and was in poor health, according to his family.

IDF representatives forwarded the findings to the American military attaché in Israel. The United States had demanded clarifications from Israel regarding the incident and the circumstances of As'ad's death.

"In light of these failures, the commander of the soldiers' platoon and the commander of their company will be immediately removed from their positions and will be barred from any command positions for the next two years, and the head of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion will be formally censured by the head of the IDF Central Command," the military said.

​​The punishment issued is far more lenient than those handed down to Palestinians, including minors convicted of throwing stones. Even if no harm or damage is caused, they face penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

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