IDF questions soldiers, officers over death of Palestinian-American

On Sunday, reports claimed that Military Police had launched an investigation but that it seemed that charges were not going to be brought against the soldiers.

Mourners attend the funeral of Palestinian-American Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, 80, who was found dead after being detained and handcuffed during an Israeli raid, in Jiljilya village on January 13, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Mourners attend the funeral of Palestinian-American Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, 80, who was found dead after being detained and handcuffed during an Israeli raid, in Jiljilya village on January 13, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

An 80-year-old Palestinian-American who died in IDF custody two weeks ago most likely suffered a heart attack caused by the stress he experienced during his detainment, Jiljilya Mayor Fuad Qattum said Sunday.

Palestinian officials and relatives said the body of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad was found in the Palestinian town of Jiljilya, near Ramallah, in the early hours of January 12 with a plastic zip tie around one wrist.

The Biden administration has sought “clarification” from Israel about As’ad’s death, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week.

“We are still waiting for the autopsy report,” Qattum said. “Today I talked to the prosecutor, and he told me that it takes time to prepare such reports. It’s likely he died from a heart attack as a result of the stress he was in. But we want to wait for the official report to see what caused the death.”

As’ad was detained while soldiers carried out an overnight operation in the village, the IDF said. He was alive when the soldiers released him, and the Military Police has opened a probe into the matter, it added.

 Men stand next to a poster of Palestinian Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, 80, in Jiljilya village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 12, 2022. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS) Men stand next to a poster of Palestinian Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad, 80, in Jiljilya village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 12, 2022. (credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

“The Military Police Criminal Investigation Division is reviewing the incident, at the end of which the findings will be transferred to the Military General Advocate Corps,” the IDF said in a statement at the time.

The Military Police has launched an investigation into the incident, but it is unlikely that charges will be brought against the soldiers and officers who participated in the operation, Ynet reported Sunday. The soldiers were from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, which is part of the Kfir Brigade.

Three soldiers and two officers were questioned by police under warning, the report said. The soldiers said they had detained As’ad since he was driving in a car that appeared suspicious, and they wanted to rule out that he was carrying arms. They detained As’ad and moved him to a nearby abandoned home to be questioned.

As’ad resisted and claimed he was not a terrorist, Ynet reported. The soldiers allegedly then forcefully moved him into the abandoned home, tied his hands and covered his mouth. He then appeared “woozy,” according to the soldiers, and they believed he had fallen asleep. They did not call for medical assistance and eventually left the home after untying As’ad, the report said.

As’ad was a former Milwaukee, Wisconsin, resident who had lived in the United States for decades and returned to the West Bank 10 years ago, according to his brother.

As’ad’s family delayed the funeral until Thursday to allow a postmortem. Islam Abu Zaher, a local doctor who said he had tried to resuscitate As’ad but found no pulse, said there were no obvious signs of injury and that the cause of death was unclear.