Hours after the military said a Palestinian killed Thursday after charging at soldiers with a metal object probably died of tear gas inhalation, coroners conducting a autopsy on the body contradicted the army assessment, saying the likely cause of death was gunfire.
Coroners at Tel Aviv’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute said they also found minor signs of bruising due to blows the suspect received from soldiers during his arrest, but that these did not appear to be the cause of death — an assessment in line with the initial army probe into the incident.
A Palestinian doctor was also present during the autopsy.
The army probe found that during a riot in the West Bank city of Jericho the man had attempted to attack a soldier and tried to steal a soldier’s gun.
As the Palestinian man — Yassin al-Saradeeh, 33 — died while he was in custody, the Military Police opened its own investigation into the case “to evaluate the circumstances of his death and to conduct an autopsy of the assailant,” the army said.
During the violence, al-Saradeeh was caught on security camera running at an Israeli soldier with a small table in his grasp. The soldier could then be seen stepping out and shooting at al-Saradeeh, but the military said the shot apparently went wide and missed him, though the Palestinian dropped to the ground anyway.
According to the army, the man appeared to have died as a result of the tear gas used to drive back approximately 50 rioters, who threw rocks and burned tires as soldiers entered Jericho early Thursday morning.
It was not immediately clear how the post-mortem fit in with the army report, and whether the gunshot sustained by al-Saradeeh was the one acknowledged by the army report. The military said it was aware of the autopsy report but had no further comment.
In the video, other soldiers could be seen punching and kicking the man after he fell to the ground, who struggled with them, as well as striking him with the butt of a rifle, before dragging him out of the frame.
An army spokesperson said during the arrest al-Saradeeh tried to steal a soldier’s gun, pointing to a moment in the footage — around the 28-second mark — in which the Palestinian man can be seen lunging at one of the soldiers.
The army also said a knife was later found in the Palestinian man’s possession.
After his initial arrest, an army medic checked al-Saradeeh and found him to be in “proper condition,” the army said on Friday. “His medical condition deteriorated, he was taken away and treated by the IDF troops, who ultimately pronounced him dead,” the army said.
On Thursday, relatives of al-Saradeeh and a Palestinian NGO claimed he died from being beaten by the troops. They did not immediately respond to the army’s initial investigation of his death.
A non-governmental organization, the Palestinian Prisoners Club, also said on Thursday that al-Saradeeh had inhaled a substantial amount of tear gas during the clashes.
The man’s family said he did not suffer from any diseases or preexisting medical conditions. Relatives claimed his death stemmed from injuries sustained during his arrest, when he was beaten.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted a relative, Ismail al-Masri, as saying soldiers beat al-Saradeeh “as soon as he approached his uncle’s house to check why the army was raiding it.”
His brother also appeared on Palestinian television and said that al-Saradeeh had been incarcerated by Israel during the Second Intifada for terrorist activities.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.