US seeks answers about death of American-Palestinian detained by IDF

By TOVAH LAZAROFF AND REUTERS
Photo by: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The Biden-Administration has sought "clarification" from Israel about the death of an 80-year-old US-Palestinian citizen, who died after he was released from IDF custody early Wednesday morning.

"We have been in touch with the government of Israel to seek clarification about this incident," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington later that day.

Palestinian officials and relatives said the body of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad was found in Jiljilya in the early hours of the morning with a plastic zip-tie still around one wrist, villagers told Reuters.

The IDF said As’ad was detained while soldiers carried out an overnight operation in the village. It added that he was alive when the soldiers released him and that the military police had opened a probe into the matter.

“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.

 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)

Price said that the Biden administration supports "a thorough investigation into this incident."

He added that "we have been in touch with Mr. As'ad's family to express our condolences about this tragedy."

As’ad was a former Milwaukee, Wisconsin, resident who had lived in the United States for decades and returned 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 the cause of death was unclear.

“It is possible that he suffered a heart attack or some form of panic,” Abu Zaher told Reuters, noting that As’ad had previously undergone open-heart surgery and cardiac catheterization. “We would need to perform an autopsy.”

Jiljilya village council head Fouad Qattoum said As’ad was returning home after visiting relatives when Israeli soldiers stopped his car, bound him, blindfolded him and led him away to a building still under construction. Another villager said he saw Israeli soldiers walking As’ad away around 3 a.m.

As’ad’s body was found more than an hour later, according to vegetable seller Mamdouh Elaboud, who said he was himself detained for 20 minutes, then released.

“After the soldiers were gone, we noticed someone on the ground,” Elaboud, 55, told Reuters. “He was lying face down on the ground and when we turned him over we found an elderly man with no sign of life.”

In a post on his Facebook page, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh blamed Israel for the man’s death, calling it a “crime.”

IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Amnon Shefler said the military “will investigate this event in a thorough and professional manner, acting in line with our values and protocols.”

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.