Herzog on death of Palestinian left bound by troops: ‘A warning light for us all’

President says ‘no stone must be left unturned’ amid ongoing Military Police investigation into death of 78-year-old Palestinian- American Omar As’ad

Omar As'ad. (Courtesy)
Omar As'ad. (Courtesy)

President Isaac Herzog on Monday decried the recent death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man who suffered a fatal attack after Israeli troops left him bound, gagged and abandoned at a construction site in the middle of winter.

An Israel Defense Forces probe of the January 12 incident called Omar As’ad’s death an “ethical failure” by the soldiers involved. Two officers were removed from their positions and a third was formally censured.

Speaking at the B’Sheva conference, Herzog said As’ad’s death “should serve as a warning light for us all.”

“Friends, this matter transcends political divisions; it transcends identity groups; it transcends the whole of Israeli society,” he said.

Citing a line from Deuteronomy, “let your camp be holy,” Herzog said the incident contravened the values on which Israelis are raised.

“Lest there be any doubt, I wish to clarify: the IDF’s soldiers are the best of the best,” he said.

“But it is precisely for this reason, and because we pin such high expectations on them, that whenever there is an ethical failure, especially at the cost of human life, no stone must be left unturned in order to investigate, study, and do everything to prevent such a failure from recurring.”

President Isaac Herzog speaks during the B’Sheva conference in Jerusalem on February 7, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Herzog’s comments came amid an ongoing Military Police investigation into the As’ad’s death. Once complete, the findings will be passed to the Military Advocate General, who will decide whether criminal charges should be filed.

As’ad’s death sparked a sharp response from the Biden administration, with the State Department emphasizing in the multiple statements issued on the matter that it takes the safety of its nationals abroad very seriously.

Even after the IDF’s internal probe, the US has continued to call for a “thorough criminal investigation” and US Ambassador Tom Nides met last week with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi for an update on the investigation.

Kohavi echoed the earlier IDF statement, telling Nides that “this was a grave moral incident that is contrary to the values of the IDF.”

A group of Democratic lawmakers has also sounded off on As’ad’s death, demanding an investigation and expressing concern over Israeli military practices in the West Bank more broadly.


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