US expects 'full accountability' from IDF for Palestinian-American death

The United States called for 'full accountability' from the IDF over the death of an elderly Palestinian-American who died of cardiac distress after he was briefly detained by army soldiers.

 US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, US, February 22, 2021 (photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL VIA REUTERS)
US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, US, February 22, 2021
(photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/POOL VIA REUTERS)

"We expect a thorough criminal investigation and full accountability in this case," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

"We welcome receiving additional information on these efforts as soon as possible. We continue to discuss this troubling incident with the Israeli Government," he added.

The IDF on Monday announced that two IDF officers would be dismissed from their positions immediately and a third, a battalion commander, will be formally censured over the death of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, 78, of Jiljilya earlier this month. The military said his death was a result of “moral failure and poor decision-making.”

"We continue," Price said, "to be concerned by the circumstances of the death of Mr. Omar Assad. He, of course, was a U.S. citizen who was found dead on January 12th after Israeli soldiers detained him in the West Bank."

Asad had been arrested by troops belonging to the Netzah Yehuda Battalion at an impromptu checkpoint on his way home. He then began to shout at them, drawing attention to the troops who did not want other residents to know that a surprise inspection was taking place.

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. (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. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

In order to quiet him down, one soldier put his hand over his mouth and then put a cloth gag over his mouth that he immediately pulled off. Troops then zip-tied As’ad’s hands behind his back and brought to an abandoned courtyard.

As’ad was detained along with several other Palestinians in an abandoned home, handcuffed, blindfolded and gagged for around half an hour. Believing that As’ad had fallen asleep and not seeing any signs of distress, troops did not call for medical assistance and did not attempt to wake him before they left.

He was later pronounced dead at a Ramallah hospital where he was taken by residents after another detainee saw that he was unresponsive and called for a doctor. An autopsy performed under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority concluded last week that As’ad died of a “stress-induced sudden cardiac arrest due to external injuries.”

The command-level investigation took place alongside a Military Police investigation that is still ongoing, with a number of officers, soldiers and other witnesses being questioned in order to get additional evidence and corroborate testimony from Palestinian witnesses. The investigation was given to IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi on Monday by the head of the Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.

Kohavi said that As’ad’s death was an extremely grave ethical failure and goes against IDF values.

Fuchs added that, “Nobody should be left this way on the ground, no matter how old he is, even if he is asleep.

"We arrested him, therefore it was our responsibility to take care of him."