Israel says it is to compensate family of Palestinian [American citizen !] who died after detention

Bethan McKernan

The Guardian  /  October 10, 2022

Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad was subjected to force by IDF soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint.

Israel says it has reached a settlement with the family of a Palestinian-American man who died after soldiers used force to detain him, in a rare case of compensation for a Palestinian claim of wrongdoing by Israeli forces.

Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, 78, was detained at a checkpoint in Jiljilya in the occupied West Bank in January and “apprehended after resisting a check”, according to an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) statement. He was handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded for between 20 minutes and an hour, and found by locals after the soldiers left.

A postmortem concluded As’ad died of a “stress-induced sudden cardiac arrest stemming from external violence”.

The IDF later called the incident “a grave and unfortunate event, resulting from moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers”. It said one officer involved had been reprimanded and two more reassigned to non-commanding roles.

On Sunday, the Israeli defence ministry said it had reached a settlement with As’ad’s family, who had filed a claim against the state in an Israeli court. “In light of the unfortunate event’s unique circumstances”, it had agreed to pay the family 500,000 shekels (£127,000), a statement said.

As’ad’s family and lawyers have yet to comment on the report.

The retired grocery shop owner’s US citizenship meant his case received more international attention than most civilian deaths related to Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. In 2021, security forces killed 41 Palestinians in the West Bank who were not involved in attacking or allegedly attacking Israelis, according to the human rights group B’Tselem.

Israeli forces have near-total impunity from prosecution in cases in which Palestinians were harmed by IDF soldiers. Only five (7.2%) of all internal military investigations opened in 2019-20 resulted in criminal indictments, and just 2% of the complaints the army received resulted in the prosecution of a suspect.

In May, another Palestinian-American citizen, the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, was shot in the head while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Israel initially blamed the reporter’s death on Palestinian militants, but after widespread international outrage later said there was a “high possibility” she was killed by an Israeli soldier. The IDF maintains the shooting was accidental, and therefore a criminal investigation is not warranted.

Several journalistic investigations and a UN investigation have found that Israeli troops were responsible for her death. A joint report by Forensic Architecture, a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, concluded that the journalist was deliberately targeted.

In September, Abu Akleh’s family submitted a formal complaint to the international criminal court.

Bethan McKernan is Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian