An initial military investigation into the death of a Palestinian suspect on Thursday who charged at an IDF soldier with a metal object determined that the main cause of death was inhalation of tear gas and not the blows the suspect endured during his arrest, the army said on Friday.
The army probe found that during a riot in the West Bank city of Jericho the man had attempted to attack the soldier and, during his arrest, 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.
According to the army, the Palestinian 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.
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.
In the video, other soldiers could then be seen punching and kicking the man, 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.
According to the military, though al-Saradeeh was arrested, the rest of the rioters continued throwing rocks and burning tires at the soldiers. In response, the troops used less-lethal riot dispersal means to drive back the demonstrators, notably tear gas.
“It seems he inhaled tear gas, which appears to have caused his death,” 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.
— Pal.Info.Center (@PalinfoAr) February 22, 2018
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.
His family said the IDF notified them of their son’s death on Thursday morning.
Residents of Jericho held a general strike in the city in response to al-Saradeeh’s death.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.