RIYADH: The family of an elderly Palestinian-American man who died after being detained by Israeli soldiers have denied agreeing on a compensation deal with Israel’s defense ministry.
The family’s comments came after the ministry issued a statement saying it had reached a settlement with relatives of 78-year-old Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad.
According to the ministry, the family’s claim against the state in an Israeli court had been settled by a 500,000 shekel ($140,000) payout “in light of the unfortunate event’s unique circumstances.’’
Israel public broadcaster Kan reported that, in exchange, the family had agreed to withdraw its legal claims.
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
As’ad’s brother Nawaf said that the family had not been contacted by the defense ministry in relation to a monetary deal, and they would not accept one if it meant dropping the case.
“We haven’t agreed anything with regards to my brother and the case. We don’t want money, we want justice,” he said by telephone from Jiljilya, the family’s village in the occupied West Bank.
“They need to explain why a bunch of soldiers who are supposed to be trained to deal with people and to protect people killed a frail, elderly man.”
As’ad, a retired grocery store owner, died in January after he was stopped at a checkpoint on his way home to Jiljilya and “resisted a check,” according to an IDF statement. He was then handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded for between 20 minutes and an hour.
In interviews, several witnesses who were detained by the unit at the same time said As’ad had clearly lost consciousness and stopped breathing, but the soldiers left without checking his well-being, despite the fact a military medic was nearby.
A postmortem commissioned by the Palestinian justice ministry found that As’ad had several pre-existing heart conditions, and died of a “stress-induced sudden cardiac arrest stemming from external violence.”
The high-profile case attracted international attention and calls from US legislators for a thorough investigation.
The IDF later described the incident as “a grave and unfortunate event resulting from moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers.”
One officer involved had been reprimanded and two others reassigned to non-command roles, it said.
Criminal prosecutions against Israeli soldiers who harm Palestinians are extremely rare.
The IDF says it opens initial operational investigations in all cases in the West Bank in which a Palestinian is killed, unless the death occurred in a combat environment.