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US seeks clarification after Palestinian-American, 80, dies following IDF arrest

State Department spokesman says his office has been in touch with Omar As’ad’s family following fatal heart attack he suffered after he was allegedly beaten while in IDF custody

Palestinian-American Amr Abd al-Majid As'ad, who died while in Israeli custody on January 12, 2021. (Courtesy)
Palestinian-American Amr Abd al-Majid As'ad, who died while in Israeli custody on January 12, 2021. (Courtesy)

The Biden administration is seeking clarification from Israel after an 80-year-old Palestinian-American died of a heart attack he suffered following his arrest by Israeli soldiers near Ramallah on Wednesday morning.

According to Omar Abd al-Majid As’ad’s family, Israeli soldiers tied his hands and beat him after the arrest in his hometown of Jiljilya, before apparently releasing him from detention.

Before As’ad’s arrest, the Israeli army had conducted intensive patrols and random stops in the village over the past two days, culminating in a predawn raid on Wednesday morning, Jiljilya mayor Fouad Qattum said in a phone call.

“More than 50 soldiers entered the village early this morning, patrolling around the village and between the homes. Amr As’ad, the martyr, was returning home from his relatives and they dragged him out of his car,” Qattum said.

After being detained in an empty house, As’ad, who suffered from diabetes and other chronic conditions, apparently suffered a heart attack, Qattum said. It was not clear if the soldiers were present when he collapsed.

As’ad was found in Jiljilya early Wednesday morning with a plastic zip-tie still around one of his wrists. Such zip-ties are regularly used by Israeli soldiers during arrests in the West Bank.

“The soldiers just left him there. It was only by coincidence that young men from the village happened to spot him there hours later,” Qattum said.

He was taken to a local Palestinian health clinic before being transferred to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah, where he died, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Forces said Military Police opened an investigation into As’ad’s death. In a statement, the military confirmed that As’ad was arrested overnight, but did not comment on the Palestinian allegations of violence.

“The Palestinian was arrested during an operation by IDF troops after he refused a security search. The detainee was released later that night,” the military said.

Asked for comment on the matter during the daily press briefing, US State Department spokesman Ned Price began by confirming that As’ad was an American citizen.

Illustrative: IDF soldiers conduct a raid in the West Bank village of Yatta, near Hebron, on September 17, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We have been in touch with Mr. As’ad’s family to express our condolences about this tragedy. We’re providing all of the consular assistance to the family at this time,” he said.

“We’ve also been in touch with the government of Israel to seek clarification about this incident, and as you may have seen the Israeli Defense Forces have indicated that there’s an ongoing investigation into the matter.”

“We support a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this incident,” Price added.

The military conducts arrest operations on a nightly basis, often arresting tens or dozens of Palestinians on suspicion of involvement in terror activity.

Tensions have been rising between Israel and the Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza over the past month, including a wave of terror attacks that so far have taken the lives of two Israeli civilians and wounded several others.

 

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