Israeli commanders sanctioned in the death of a Palestinian-American

JERUSALEM — Three Israeli military commanders have been disciplined after an investigation into the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-...


JERUSALEM — Three Israeli military commanders have been disciplined after an investigation into the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man who was detained, gagged and handcuffed by Israeli soldiers during a nighttime raid on his village last month.

A autopsy showed that the man, Omar Abdelmajed Assad, died of a stress-induced heart attack brought on by injuries sustained while being detained for about an hour on January 12 by dozens of Israeli soldiers.

The commander of Netzah Yehuda, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish battalion that led the raid on the village, will be reprimanded and both platoon and company commanders will be removed from their posts. They will not serve in command roles for two years, according to the military.

“The incident showed a clear lack of moral judgment,” the IDF chief of staff said in a statement released late Monday that summarized the findings of an investigation by Israel’s central command. army. “The inquest concluded that the incident was a serious and unfortunate event, resulting from moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers.”

The statement, in which Mr. Assad’s full name was rendered incorrectly, said the Israeli military deeply regrets his death, but refrained from apologizing.

Mr Assad’s family and human rights groups said the sentences were too light and set a model of impunity for Israelis who kill Palestinians.

“It’s not enough,” said Mohanad Assad, Mr. Assad’s 39-year-old cousin. “They must be tried by international tribunals.”

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has long dismissed Israeli military investigations into the killings of Palestinians as whitewashing.

But the Israeli military called the allegations “ridiculous” and said it had repeatedly proven its investigations were independent and professional.

One example of an investigation that critics say reflects a trend of impunity was linked to the 2014 war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, when an airstrike kill four boys playing on a beach, prompting international condemnation. An Israeli army investigation resulted in no criminal charges or disciplinary action being taken against anyone involved in the airstrikes during that war, including the two who killed the boys.

Mr Assad was driving home around 3am after a night spent playing cards and drinking coffee at a relative’s house when he was arrested near his home in the occupied West Bank village of Jiljilya. Immediately after the soldiers left the scene, he was found face down and unresponsive with a blindfold on, according to witnesses and his doctor, who said he died while in the custody of the soldiers. Israelis.

Initially, the Israeli army said Mr. Assad was alive when he was released.

The soldiers did not identify any signs of distress or see anything concerning about Mr Assad’s health before they left, according to the inquest, saying they thought he was asleep. But the investigation found that the “soldiers failed in their duty by leaving Assad lying on the ground without the required treatment and without reporting the incident to their commanders”.

His death has prompted renewed scrutiny of Israel from its closest ally, the United States, which has called for a full investigation. Mr. Assad was a US citizen with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in the United States. His family and several members of Congress demanded that the United States conduct its own independent investigation.

In addition to the Central Command investigation, a separate criminal investigation by the Israeli Military Police is still ongoing.

Mr. Assad’s autopsy was conducted by the Palestinian Authority coroner, who is also conducting his own investigation into Mr. Assad’s death. The authority administers parts of the West Bank but even in Palestinian villages like Jiljilya, Israeli forces regularly carry out raids and operations aimed at thwarting attacks.

The life and death of Mr. Assad reflected the daily perils faced by Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, including the fear of being detained in night raids or arrested in their homes.

According to the investigation, soldiers were in Jiljilya that morning to thwart terrorist activities and seize weapons and, as part of this operation, they stopped Mr. Assad’s vehicle. Mr. Assad refused to cooperate with their security check.

In response, he was held with his hands tied and his mouth gagged for a short time, according to the inquest.

Dr Islam Abu Zaher, who tried to resuscitate Mr Assad after Israeli soldiers rushed out of the village, said his face was blue and he had been deprived of oxygen for 15 to 20 minutes.

The Central Command investigation found that the soldiers did not use violence against Mr Assad “except when Assad was apprehended after refusing to cooperate”.

These findings contradict a preliminary conclusion of the Palestinian investigation, which determined that he had been “severely beaten” and “subjected to harsh treatment and violence”.

The autopsy revealed that Mr. Assad had bruises on his head from traumatic brain injuries, without concluding on what could have caused these injuries. There was also internal bleeding in his eyelids from being blindfolded, as well as other bruises on his arms and red marks on his wrists from zip ties.

Another man detained by the same soldiers said that as soon as they left he went to Mr Assad’s house and found him unconscious. Dr. Abu Zaher was immediately called and attempted to revive him with CPR and a defibrillator.

Mr. Assad underwent open-heart surgery and several stents were implanted about four years ago, according to Dr. Abu Zaher. He was also being treated for obstructive lung disease in recent months.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Israeli commanders sanctioned in the death of a Palestinian-American
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