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Omar Assad

Relatives grieve during the funeral for Omar Assad, a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man who died during a brutal stop and detention by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank town of Jiljilya on January 12, 2022. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Leaked Report Suggests Impunity for IDF Troops in Deadly Stop of Palestinian-American Elder

"This is a policy: Israel does not prosecute those responsible for harming Palestinians, thus making their lives miserable," said the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

Brett Wilkins

Human rights advocates reacted angrily Sunday to a leaked report suggesting that no Israeli soldiers are likely to be charged in connection with the fatal detention of an elderly Palestinian-American man by occupation forces in a West Bank town earlier this month.

"Yet another example of why Israel cannot be trusted to investigate its own violations."

"This is a policy: Israel does not prosecute those responsible for harming Palestinians, thus making their lives miserable," the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem tweeted.

The Washington Post, citing a Hebrew-language report on the Israeli news site Ynet, said Sunday that a leaked summary of an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) probe into the death of Omar Assad confirmed that the 78-year-old former Milwaukee grocer was dragged from his vehicle, blindfolded, gagged, and handcuffed before falling silent while being detained at a construction site in Jiljilya on January 12.

The report summary said that IDF soldiers did not provide medical assistance to Assad, despite the presence of an army medic.

Assad suffered from heart problems. Witnesses said that by the time the Israeli troops left Jiljilya after detaining him for an hour, his face was ashen blue from a lack of oxygen. Islam Abu Zaher, a physician who tried to resuscitate Assad almost immediately after the troops left, said he died from an apparent heart attack.

The report suggested that none of the IDF soldiers involved "would be indicted, nor have they been suspended." 

An IDF spokesperson, Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, said last week that troops apprehended Assad "after he resisted a check, a routine check, where he was questioned. And because of his lack of cooperation and his behavior, that is why they stopped him."

The IDF said Sunday that "it should be clarified that no decisions have yet been made regarding the investigation case."

B'Tselem tweeted, "Maybe this time, when it comes to its citizen, the United States for a change will do something in response to the crimes committed by its good friend."

Palestinian-American writer and activist Susan Abulhawa said Sunday that "Omar Assad was an American citizen. We need the Department of Justice to convene a grand jury to indict and extradite his killers, because no non-Jew can get justice in Israel."

The Post says the U.S. State Department has asked Israel to conduct a "thorough investigation" of Assad's death.

After Rachel Corrie, an American activist volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death by an IDF armored bulldozer while defending Palestinian homes in occupied Gaza in 2003, Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador at the time, expressed his dissatisfaction with Israel's investigation of the incident. Attempts by Corrie's family to hold Israel accountable for the woman's death ultimately proved futile.

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