An Israeli general said on Wednesday it would be foolish to speculate that soldiers might be prosecuted for the death of an elderly Palestinian-American they were holding, a case in which Washington called for “full accountability”.
After reprimanding a battalion commander and sacking two officers involved in the January 12 death of Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, 78, the army said its police were also considering the possibility of filing a complaint.
When and if that might happen remains unclear.
An Israeli military spokesman said the investigation was continuing while the head of its forces in the occupied West Bank, where the death occurred, declined to speculate on the outcome.
“It would be so stupid of me to try to guess or guess,” Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs told reporters, adding that he was – due to procedure – unaware of the investigation.
On Tuesday, a State Department spokesperson said Washington remained “deeply concerned” and expected “a thorough criminal investigation and full accountability.”
Israel’s top general and defense minister express regret over the conduct of the three officers, whom the military has accused of ‘moral failure and poor decision-making’ for leaving As’ad lying and unresponsive in a courtyard in his hometown of Jiljilya in the West Bank.
Such public Israeli censorship of the death of a Palestinian is unusual. But, Fuchs said, “it has nothing to do with the fact that he (As’ad) was American.”
A Palestinian autopsy revealed that As’ad, who had a history of heart problems, had suffered cardiac arrest. Palestinian officials attributed this to the fact that he had been roughed up.
Fuchs called the incident “shameful” and said As’ad, who was pulled over from his car, should not have been detained.
But he also supported the accounts of the troops, saying that As’ad had been subjected only to the force necessary to subdue him. Thinking As’ad had fallen asleep, the soldiers untied his hands and left, Fuchs said.
When asked if it was reasonable to believe that an elderly man could sleep, tied up, on the ground, in the middle of a winter night, while under surveillance, Fuchs replied: “I think I could.”