Palestinian who died in IDF custody wasn’t beaten to death, autopsy shows
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Palestinian who died in IDF custody wasn’t beaten to death, autopsy shows

Initial findings show heart condition may have been the cause of Muhammed Khatib’s death, Israeli and Palestinian medical sources say

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

The mother of 24-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Zaghloul Khatib sits at the family's home in the West Bank village of Bayt Rima, north of Ramallah, on September 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
The mother of 24-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Zaghloul Khatib sits at the family's home in the West Bank village of Bayt Rima, north of Ramallah, on September 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

Israeli and Palestinian medical sources on Tuesday said the initial results of an autopsy of a Palestinian who died in Israeli military custody last week did not indicate he had been beaten to death.

Muhammed Khatib, 24, died last Tuesday after Israel Defense Forces soldiers arrested him during a raid on Bayt Rima, a village near Ramallah in the West Bank. 

“The first results of the autopsy show he was hit in his chest, thigh and back, but not in a manner severe enough to have led to his death,” a Palestinian medical source said.

An Israeli medical source confirmed that the initial results of the autopsy did not indicate Khatib was beaten to death. In contrast to the Palestinian source, however, the Israeli source said the results did not show the IDF beat Khatib at all.

“The examination of his body did not reveal any signs he was hit,” the Israeli source said.

Neighbors of 24-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Zaghloul Khatib look at his poster in the West Bank village of Bayt Rima, north of Ramallah, on September 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

The Haaretz daily reported on Saturday that no signs of violence were found on Khatib’s body. 

The Palestinian Authority Prisoner Affairs’ Commission then claimed in a statement on Sunday that the initial results of the autopsy indicated the main cause of Khatib’s death was “violent beating.” 

The Israeli source called the PA Prisoners Affairs’ Commission statement “false” while the Palestinian source termed it “incorrect.” 

Members of Khatib’s family, nonetheless, insist that he was beaten to death. 

“My family members heard the occupation forces in his room. They heard him screaming as they beat him,” Baha’a Khatib, Muhammed’s uncle, said in a phone call on Tuesday. “The occupation forces then carried him outside unconscious. We believe he was beaten to death.” 

An immediate family member of Muhammed said last Tuesday in a phone call that Israeli forces “executed our son by violently beating him.”

The IDF has said Khatib died in its custody, but denied its forces injured him.

Medical professionals started to carry out their autopsy of Khatib’s body at the National Center for Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

Rayyan al-Ali, the director of the Forensic Medical Institue at An Najah National University in Nablus, attended the examination of Khatib’s body.

The Palestinian source said that Khatib may have died due to a heart condition.

“The initial results of the autopsy showed he had a congenital heart defect; his coronary arteries were thin,” the Palestinian source said. “It is possible that when the Israeli army raided his house and arrested him, they surprised him, putting his heart under major stress, which made it stop working.”

Illustrative. Israeli soldiers stand near the scene of a suspected car-ramming attack at the entrance to the village of Husan, in the West Bank, on June 23, 2018. (Flash90)

However, the Palestinian source emphasized that he could not state with certainty the cause of Khatib’s death until the completion of toxicology and other tests. 

The Israeli source also noted that initial results from the autopsy showed Khatib had a congenital heart defect and confirmed it could have caused his death.

Baha’a Khatib insisted that his nephew was healthy and did not have heart problems. 

“Muhammed did not have any health issues or heart problems,” he said.

The Israeli source also said that it was possible Khatib could have been under the influence of drugs, which caused his death. 

Similar to the Palestinian source, however, the Israeli source said it would not be possible to determine the cause of death until medical professionals completed all their tests. 

Both the Israeli and Palestinian medical sources said that a final autopsy report would be released in the coming days. 

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