IDF’s Kochavi: ‘Immoral, Reprehensible’ Conduct by Soldiers in Death of Palestinian-American
Israel’s military will dismiss two IDF commanders and reprimand a battalion commander in response to an internal investigation, which found that last month’s death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-American was the result of “a moral failure and poor decision-making.”
Omar As’ad, who had a heart condition, suffered a deadly heart attack after being left lying on the ground in the middle of the night at a checkpoint in the central West Bank village of Jiljilya, following short detainment by IDF soldiers.
The IDF’s Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi described the soldiers’ conduct as a “careless act that runs contrary to the values of the IDF, at the center of which is the requirement to protect the sanctity of any human life.”
“The way they left a person on the ground is immoral and reprehensible. Being mission-oriented does not contradict maintaining IDF values,” said Kochavi.
Speaking to reporters after the IDF released the findings of its own investigation into As’ad’s death, Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs reiterated that the incident is a “very serious, out-of-the-ordinary and unfortunate event.”
“The investigation concluded that the incident was a grave and unfortunate event, resulting from a moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers involved,” Fuchs added.
According to the investigation, a group of soldiers from the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda battalion, on Jan. 12 set up a checkpoint outside the central West Bank village of Jiljilya as part of operational activities to thwart terrorist activities and seize weapons.
“We have recently seen a rise in terrorist activity and we continue to thwart these activities in order to maintain the security and stability in the area,” Fuchs said.
“Our troops are tasked with thwarting terrorism in the area while maintaining high moral standards. Regrettably, these values were not shown in this case. The troops on the ground failed to maintain the moral and operational standard that the IDF demands,” he said.
During the operation, the soldiers stopped three vehicles and detained four Palestinians. As’ad, who was in the first vehicle halted by the soldiers for inspection, did not have any form of identification. He argued loudly with the soldiers and refused to cooperate with the security check. In response, his hands were tied and he was gagged for a short time.
“The soldiers’ decision to detain As’ad without reasonable suspicion and specific intelligence was invalid and flawed,” an IDF official said.
After As’ad was calmed down he was taken to a courtyard of a nearby building. About 10 minutes later, three other Palestinians joined him who had also been detained by the IDF. As’ad laid down on the ground next to other detainees while they were being inspected.
“At this stage, neither the soldiers nor the Palestinians noticed anything out of the ordinary,” the IDF official said.
After half an hour, the detainees, including As’ad, were released and freed from all constraints.
The IDF said that according to the investigation upon As’ad’s release, “the soldiers did not identify signs of distress or other suspicious signs concerning As’ad’s health. The soldiers assessed that As’ad was asleep and did not try to wake him.”
Several hours later, a report was received of As’ad’s death. According to the partial findings from the autopsy, carried out by Palestinian authorities, the cause of death was a heart attack.
The IDF’s internal investigation assessed that the soldiers “failed in their obligations by leaving As’ad lying on the floor without the required treatment and without reporting the incident back to their commanders.”
“However, there was no use of violence during the incident apart from when As’ad was apprehended, after refusing to cooperate,” the IDF official said.
Israel’s military police will next present the conclusions of its own ongoing investigation into the case to the Military Advocate Corps for a legal review and to determine if charges against the involved soldiers will be filed.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price took note of the IDF probe in a statement Tuesday, saying that the US expected “full accountability” in the case.