U.S. lawmakers demand probe into 80-year-old Palestinian’s death after Israeli detention

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U.S. lawmakers are demanding a thorough investigation into the death of an 80-year-old Palestinian-American resident of the West Bank after he was detained by Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian officials say Omar Abdalmajeed As’ad, who previously lived in Milwaukee, was pulled from his car by Israeli forces on his way home in the village of Jiljilya. They allege that the soldiers bound, blindfolded and beat As’ad, who then succumbed to a heart attack in the early morning Wednesday.

As’ad’s body was found more than an hour later, according to vegetable seller Mamdouh Elaboud, who said he was himself detained for 20 minutes, then released.

The Israeli military confirmed he had been held by soldiers “after resisting a security inspection,” but said he was then released and only later, in the morning, found dead near his village. Israel’s military police have launched an investigation into the incident.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who represents As’ad’s state of Wisconsin, called the incident a “horrible tragedy that demands a thorough investigation.” She extended her condolences to his family, “including those in Wisconsin who are mourning this tragic loss and deserve answers.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the lone Palestinian-American serving in Congress, called the circumstances leading to As’ad’s death “outrageous” and urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to investigate.

Rep. Betty McCollum, long one of Congress’ more outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, called As’ad “another victim of this cruel occupation,” and Rep. Marie Newman, the first-term lawmaker who has quickly fashioned herself into a leading advocate for Palestinians, said she was “deeply disturbed” and echoed the State Department’s support of an investigation into the death.

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The lawmakers’ demands come days after State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed the United States has been in touch with Israel about As’ad’s death.

“We’ve been in touch with the government of Israel to seek clarification about this incident, [and] the Israeli Defense Forces have indicated there’s an ongoing investigation into the matter. And we support a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this incident,” Price said.

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