Israel’s army admits mistakes after Palestinian death

DCritics of the occupation regime have long complained that Palestinians in the occupied territories are subjected to harassment or even violence by the Israeli army on a daily basis. Likewise, this rarely has any serious consequences, or any consequences at all, for the soldiers involved. The death of a 78-year-old man in army custody has now led to an internal military investigation which has concluded there was a “moral failure” by the soldiers.

Christian Meier

Political correspondent for the Middle East and Northeast Africa.

Two commanders were relieved of their posts for two years, and another was reprimanded. According to the army, these are harsh penalties. In addition, the military police are conducting a criminal investigation, the outcome of which is still pending. However, the military’s investigative report into the “very serious, extraordinary and deplorable” incident dismisses a key Palestinian claim: that the heart attack the man suffered was the result of excessive violence.

On the floor in the cold for an hour

Omar Abdulmajid Assad was on his way to his home in the village of Dschildjilya, northwest of Ramallah, on the night of January 12 when his car was stopped at a roadblock. A unit of the Israeli occupying army set it up at short notice – according to the military, to prevent “terrorist activities” and to confiscate weapons. Assad could not identify himself and apparently got into an argument with the soldiers. They then forcibly took him to an empty building nearby, handcuffed and gagged him.

Inside the house, the old man lay on his stomach on the floor in the cold for at least half an hour. Several other Palestinians were also arrested and taken there. An initial statement from the army said Assad was “released” after a while. In fact, however, the soldiers only untied his handcuffs and left the premises. Only then, as some of the other Palestinians told the media, did they notice Assad’s motionless body in the dark room. They called doctors who took Assad to a hospital in Ramallah; there his death was declared.

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