By Michael Arria / Mondoweiss
On Tuesday, Israel’s Military Advocate General announced that the soldiers involved in the death of an 80-year-old Palestinian American would be disciplined but would not face criminal charges.
On January 12th, 2022, Israeli soldiers dragged Omar Asaad out of his West Bank home in the middle of the night during a violent raid. Witnesses say he was bound, gagged, and left in a cold warehouse for hours. He was found face down and unresponsive. An autopsy determined that he had died of a heart attack.
“We’re seeking more information from the Israeli government. We’re going to talk to them directly about it,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller when he was asked about the probe. “We want to engage with them further about the outcome of this investigation before making any further pronouncements.”
Israel faced widespread calls to open a criminal investigation into Asaad’s death, including public pressure from U.S. lawmakers and the State Department. The Israeli army launched an internal investigation into the matter and concluded that it was merely a “grave and unfortunate event, resulting from a moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers.”
Support our Independent Journalism — Donate Today!
The army’s report claimed that Asaad did not have identification on him and refused to cooperate with soldiers. They also said he was only constrained for a short amount of time. “The investigation determined that upon his release, the soldiers did not identify signs of distress or other suspicious signs concerning Asaad’s health. The soldiers assessed that Asaad was asleep and did not try to wake him,” reads the report.
“How can they just close the case?” asked Asaad’s son Hadi during an interview with the New York Times. “That doesn’t make sense. There were multiple witnesses that saw everything.”
Israeli soldiers rarely face prosecution as a result of internal probes. In 2022 a report by the watchdog group Yesh Din found that the military received 1,260 cases of alleged offenses by soldiers against Palestinians, including 409 cases where Palestinians were killed. Israel opened investigations into just 21% of those cases, and the probes yielded indictments less than 1% of the time.
For over a year human rights groups and activists across the globe have called for the Israeli military to face accountability over the killing of Shireen Abu-Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was shot in the head while reporting on a West Bank raid.
In November 2022, in response to pressure from Abu Akleh’s family and even some congressional Democrats, the FBI announced that it was launching its own investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. Israel immediately declared that it would refuse to cooperate with the probe.
Michael Arria is a regular writer for Mondoweiss. Read more from him at the link below.