Israel Considers Charging Soldiers Over Palestinian-american Death

On Thursday, the Israeli military said that it is contemplating pressing charges against two soldiers in connection with the death of 78-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad, who had been held by Israeli troops at an improvised roadblock in the West Bank.

The Israeli military has indicated that it has told the lawyers for the two soldiers that it is contemplating filing charges against them for their activities on the night Mr. Assad was killed. Because authorities have not been able to connect the two men’s activities to Mr. Assad’s death, the men’s attorneys have said that they do not anticipate their clients will face manslaughter charges. The decision on whether or not to press charges against the troops is awaiting a hearing.

Israel Considers Charging Soldiers Over Palestinian-american Death
Israel Considers Charging Soldiers Over Palestinian-american Death

An Israeli inquiry determined that Mr. Assad died in the middle of January after being tied, briefly gagged, blinded, and left on the freezing ground for 30 minutes because he could not provide identification when he was stopped while driving home late one night after visiting friends. According to the results of the autopsy, he died of a heart attack.

An official Israeli military inquiry into Mr. Assad’s death was released earlier this year, concluding that troops involved were guilty of “a obvious lack of moral judgment” when they held him and did not give medical treatment when they observed that he was motionless on the ground. Soldiers said investigators they freed Mr. Assad from his bonds without first making sure he was still alive because they assumed he was sleeping.

The commander of the Netzah Yehuda unit that held Mr. Assad was reprimanded, and two lower soldiers were demoted at the time.

The United States has voiced its concern about this matter on several occasions, and has urged the Israeli military to bring those guilty for Mr. Assad’s killing to justice.

Thursday, the Israeli military said that they had discovered “unspecified abnormalities and inconsistencies” in the behavior of the commander of the troops guarding Mr. Assad and the commander of the checking unit. Although it said it could not prove a link between their activities and Mr. Assad’s demise.

The men’s attorneys say that one of the commanders may have overstepped his authority, and the other may face charges of carelessness. The lawyers said they did not anticipate filing manslaughter charges against any of their clients.

The lawyers representing the two soldiers stated in a statement, “We congratulate the prosecution’s decision not to prosecute the two and hold them accountable for the unfortunate death of the elderly Palestinian.” We will argue that no charges are warranted during the hearing.

Hadi Assad, Omar Assad’s son, expressed doubt that the Israeli military could conduct a fair investigation into the circumstances surrounding his father’s killing and bring those responsible to justice.

The Israeli government offered the Assad family over $140,000 to abandon their court battle in Israel earlier this year, but the family refused the settlement offer.

Authorities from the United States Department of State did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

There has been a string of criminal charges against members of the Netzah Yehuda battalion, an ultra-Orthodox squad formed in 1999 to recruit more Orthodox Jewish Israelis.

According to the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, despite having just 500 troops, the Netzah Yehuda battalion has the highest conviction rate of any Israeli military unit since 2010 for transgressions against Palestinians. The soldiers in this squad have been found guilty of hitting Palestinian drivers in the West Bank on camera and have been prosecuted for allegedly torturing restrained Palestinians and prisoners who were tortured with electricity.

According to Yesh Din’s review of documents released by the military in response to Freedom of Information requests, 17 of the 83 soldiers convicted since 2010 by Israeli military courts of crimes against Palestinians served in Netzah Yehuda.

Because of the recent run of mishaps, more and more Israeli legislators are demanding that the brigade be abolished or relocated outside of the West Bank. Officials from the Israeli military have defended the battalion, saying that it is crucial to attempts to keep the West Bank under control.

 

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