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US collects details of Israeli battalion serving in occupied West Bank

September 7, 2022 at 10:02 am

A funeral ceremony held for 80-year-old Palestinian Omar Asad, at Jiljilya village in Ramallah, West Bank on 13 January 2022 [ Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

The US State Department is working on a report about an Israeli army battalion operating in the occupied West Bank following the killing of Palestinian-American grandfather Omar Asad, 80, at the beginning of this year, Haaretz reported on Tuesday. According to the Israeli daily, the US Embassy in Israel was tasked to prepare the report about the Nahal Haredi battalion, whose soldiers serve only in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The US apparently became interested in this battalion after reports were published about several incidents of aggression against Palestinians, one of whom was Asad. The battalion is said to have racists and religious fanatics within its ranks. The embassy is collecting data about its activities through interviews with Palestinian and Israelis, and from reports issued by Israeli media and rights groups.

The Electronic Intifada pointed out that Asad had been at a cousin’s house one night in January enjoying a typical gathering with extended family, eating, drinking coffee, watching TV, playing cards and talking. He left the house after midnight to drive the short distance home, and was stopped by Israeli soldiers.

“Omar was dragged from the car by the IDF [Israeli army] with such force that one of his shoes was wrenched from his foot and remained in the car,” wrote Asad family lawyer Stanley Cohen to US Attorney General Merrick Garland. “He was handcuffed with zip-ties, hands behind his back, his mouth covered with tape and his eyes were blindfolded or covered with a bag.”

READ: US expects full accountability for death of elderly Palestinian-American in West Bank

Cohen added that, “By the position of his body, it is known that he was dragged from his car across many yards of distance and forced to march or walk, his hands tied and his mouth covered, making breathing difficult.”

Based on eyewitness accounts, the Washington Post reported that Asad was taken to a construction site where other Palestinians were also being detained. They saw an Israeli soldier go and check on the 80 year old who “was lying motionless on the paving stones of an unfinished house” and then, according to the Post, the soldiers left “almost immediately”.

“When the IDF soldiers realised Omar Assad had died in their custody,” Cohen wrote, they “hastily snuck [sic] away in the night.”

As has become the norm, the Israeli occupation army ordered an investigation but only rebuked the soldiers who were involved in the incident.