Men stand next to a poster of Palestinian-American Omar Abdalmajeed Asad, 80, in the village of Jiljilya in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on January 12. Reuters
An 80-year-old Palestinian-American man was found dead after being handcuffed and detained during an Israeli raid on an occupied West Bank village, Palestinian officials and relatives said.
The body of US citizen Omar Abdalmajeed Asad was found in Jiljilya on Wednesday morning with a plastic zip-tie around one wrist.
The US State Department, which confirmed his citizenship, according to Reuters, said it had sought clarification from Israel over the incident.
The Israeli military said a Palestinian was “apprehended after resisting a check” during an overnight operation in the village. It said he was alive when the soldiers released him.
“The Military Police Criminal Investigation Division is reviewing the incident, at the end of which the findings will be transferred to the Military General Advocate Corps,” it said.
Asad was a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who had lived in the US for decades and returned to the West Bank 10 years ago, his brother told Reuters.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “We support a thorough investigation into the circumstances.” He said the State Department had expressed its condolences to the family and offered to provide consular assistance.
Cause of death unclear
Asad’s family delayed the funeral until Thursday to allow for a post-mortem. Islam Abu Zaher, a local doctor who had tried to resuscitate Asad but found no pulse, said there were no obvious signs of injury and the cause of death was unclear.
“It is possible that he suffered a heart attack or some form of panic,” Dr. Abu Zaher told Reuters. He said Asad had previously undergone open-heart surgery and cardiac catheterization. “We would need to perform an autopsy,” he said.
Jiljilya village council head Fouad Qattoum said Asad was returning home after visiting relatives when Israeli soldiers stopped his car, bound and blindfolded him, and led him away to a building still under construction. Another villager said he saw Israeli soldiers with Asad at around 3 am.
Asad’s body was found more than an hour later, according to vegetable seller Mamdouh Elaboud, who said he was himself detained for 20 minutes, then released.
“After the soldiers were gone, we noticed someone on the ground,” Mr. Elaboud, 55, told Reuters. “He was lying face-down on the ground and when we turned him over, we found an elderly man with no sign of life.”
In a Facebook post, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh blamed Israeli forces for the man’s death and called it a crime.
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Amnon Shefler said the military “will investigate this event in a thorough and professional manner, acting in line with our values and protocols”.