IDF condemns ‘ethical failure,’ dismisses 2 officers after death of detainee

The IDF’s top general condemns troops’ ‘ethical failure’ says respect for human life is the military’s chief value. Victim blocked search, refused to cooperate. 

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Two senior IDF officers will be dismissed and a third censured on the heels of the death of an elderly Palestinian-American detainee.

After conducting an internal probe, the IDF concluded that its soldiers and unit commanders breached the military’s ethical code.

Seventy-eight-year-old Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad was detained by IDF troops after refusing to allow them to search his vehicle at a junction near his home in Jiljilya, a hamlet north of Ramallah, during a raid aimed at investigating terror activity.

As’ad, along with several other drivers, was blindfolded, handcuffed with zip ties, and taken to a temporary detainment center the troops set up in an abandoned building in the outskirts of the city.

About an hour later, the troops reportedly left As’ad behind in the building, believing he had fallen asleep. In reality, As’ad had suffered a fatal heart attack, which the IDF maintains was caused by stress and a Ramallah hospital said was triggered by “external injuries,” namely the zip ties binding his hands.

Although the soldiers did not intentionally cause As’ad’s death, the military said the negligence shown by the troops was unacceptable.

An IDF spokesperson said the probe found “an ethical failure by the soldiers and a mistake in their thought process, alongside a severe violation of the value of respecting human life.”

The statement added that “there was no use of violence during the incident, apart from when As’ad was arrested after refusing to cooperate [with the initial search.]”

The military’s top brass, including its highest-ranking general, publicly condemned the behavior of the soldiers and how the incident was handled.

“The troops leaving the scene and leaving As’ad [there] without checking [on] his condition shows obtuseness and goes against IDF values, chiefly the need to preserve the respect of every person as a human being,” said IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

A military police investigation against the officers involved in the incident, which determines whether or not they will be criminally charged, is ongoing.

As’ad’s death has made headlines in the U.S., as he held American citizenship and lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for about 40 years.

His son told AP that he had returned to his hometown of Jiljilya with his wife in 2009, retiring in a house he had financed from his work in the U.S.

Wisconsin lawmakers Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D) reached out to Secretary of State Antony Biden asking him to launch an independent investigation into As’ad’s death and determine “whether the soldiers involved used equipment procured with American aid,” AP reported.

“We continue to support an investigation that is thorough and comprehensive into the circumstances of the incident and we welcome receiving additional information as soon as possible,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday at a press conference.