Disciplinary actions expected against troops involved in death of elderly Palestinian

80 year-old Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad died January 12 after being detained by IDF 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)

Punitive measures are expected to be taken against soldiers who were involved in the detention that led to the death of an 80-year-old Palestinian-American man on January 12.

Several officers and soldiers have been interrogated by military police following the uproar caused by the death of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad of Jiljilya, a village north of Ramallah, after he was detained, handcuffed, blindfolded and gagged for more than an hour.

Three soldiers and two officers were questioned by police under warning, Ynet reported Monday. Charges are not expected to be brought against them, but IDF Central Command is expected to make a public statement in the coming days about the incident, the report said.

The Military Police investigation into the event is expected to finish next week. It will be followed by an operational investigation in which command measures are expected to be laid against the officers and soldiers in the battalion, Ynet reported.

 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)

As’ad was detained on his way home by soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion at an impromptu checkpoint after he began shouting at them. That drew attention to soldiers who did not want other residents to know a surprise inspection was taking place.

As’ad had been detained along with several other Palestinians in an abandoned home. It was unclear who gave the order to detain them, Haaretz reported.

Following his arrest, As’ad appeared woozy, Ynet reported. He was left uncuffed, but no one called for medical assistance, believing he had fallen asleep. He was later found unresponsive and pronounced dead at a Ramallah hospital where he was taken by residents, the report said.

The gag over his mouth might have impeded his breathing, and his condition may have worsened because of the near-freezing weather, sources with knowledge of the investigation told Ynet.

As’ad was a former resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who had lived in the United States for decades and returned to the West Bank 10 years ago, according to his brother. The Biden administration has sought clarification from Israel about As’ad’s death, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week.

As’ad’s family delayed the funeral 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.

As’ad likely died from a heart attack, Jiljilya Mayor Fuad Qattum told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.

“We are still waiting for the autopsy report,” he 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.”