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US State Department calls for IDF ‘full responsibility’ for death of elderly Palestinian-American

DUBAI: The US State Department has called for a full criminal investigation into the death of an elderly Palestinian-American man who died while in the custody of members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States expected “full responsibility” from the Israeli military for the death of 78-year-old Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad of Jiljilya earlier this month, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The Israeli army confirmed on Tuesday that it was removing two officers from their commands.
A third soldier – a battalion commander – will be reprimanded for the death.

But speaking to reporters in Washington, Price said, “We await a thorough criminal investigation and full accountability in this matter.”

“We look forward to receiving additional information on these efforts as soon as possible. We continue to discuss this troubling incident with the Israeli government,” he added.

The Israeli military said As’ad’s death during a nighttime security operation on January 12 was the result of “moral failure and poor decision-making.”

Troops stopped As’ad at an impromptu checkpoint as he was returning home.

He yelled at them, drawing attention to the soldiers who didn’t want people to know the surprise inspection was taking place, the Post reported.

A soldier covered the man’s mouth with his hand, before using a cloth gag, which As’ad ripped off.

As’ad’s hands were tied behind his back and he was taken to an abandoned yard, where he was held with several other Palestinians for about 30 minutes.

It was around this time that soldiers said they believed As’ad had fallen asleep, saying they saw no signs of distress and did not call for medical assistance or attempt to wake him up before leaving.

After noticing that he was unresponsive, residents took him to a hospital in Ramallah where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy, later carried out by the Palestinian Authority, concluded that As’ad had died of “sudden stress-induced cardiac arrest due to external injuries”.

“We continue,” Price said, “to be concerned about the circumstances of the death of Mr. Omar Assad. He was, of course, an American citizen who was found dead on January 12 after Israeli soldiers detained him in the West Bank.

A command-level investigation has already taken place alongside an ongoing military police investigation, during which a number of military personnel and other witnesses have been interviewed.

The investigation was assigned to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi on Monday by Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, the Post reported.

As’ad’s death is an extremely serious ethical breach and goes against IDF values, Kohavi said.

“No one should be left like that on the floor, regardless of age, even if they are sleeping,” Fuchs added.

“We arrested him, so it was our responsibility to take care of him.”

(With AFP)

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