JERUSALEM — An elderly Palestinian American was found dead early Wednesday shortly after a brief detention by Israeli troops in a village in the occupied West Bank, prompting the U.S. government to call for an investigation into his death.
The man, who was named by American and Palestinian officials as Omar Asad, died of a heart attack after being detained during a nighttime raid on Jiljilya, a Palestinian village near the city of Ramallah, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement. The ministry said he was 80.
The Israeli Army said in a statement that a Palestinian man in Jiljilya “was apprehended after resisting a check” during an Israeli raid, before later being released alive. The statement added that the Israeli military police were investigating the incident.
According to the village council leader, in an interview posted on Wafa, the main Palestinian news wire, Mr. Asad was driving home after a visit to relatives when he was stopped by Israeli soldiers, pulled from his car, blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to a building site along with four other villagers.
After the soldiers left the area, Mr. Asad was found dead at the building site at approximately 4:30 a.m., the council leader, Fouad Moutee, told Wafa.
Almost all of the village is under the management of the Palestinian Authority, according to diplomatic agreements forged in the 1990s, known as the Oslo Accords. But Israeli troops regularly enter the authority’s areas of autonomy, such as Jiljilya, in order to carry out arrests or sometimes for training exercises.
The State Department’s spokesman, Ned Price, said on Wednesday that the United States had sought clarification from Israel about the incident. “We support a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this incident,” Mr. Price said at a news briefing.
Mr. Asad had lived in Milwaukee for decades before returning to the West Bank about 10 years ago, his family told Reuters.
He is at least the second Palestinian in 2022 to die in the West Bank in an incident related to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Another Palestinian man, Bakir Hashash, was killed during a shootout with Israeli soldiers in Balata, in the northern West Bank, on Jan. 6.
At least 79 Palestinians were killed in 2021 by Israeli soldiers or settlers in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, according to records compiled by the United Nations. Three Israelis were killed by Palestinians there, most recently in December when a 25-year-old Israeli settler, Yehuda Dimentman, was shot dead in an ambush in the northern West Bank.
Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, after capturing it from Jordan. Violence in the West Bank reached a five-year peak in 2021, according to U.N. data, as the prospect of a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians grew ever more remote, seven years after the last peace negotiations petered out in 2014.
The current Israeli government, which is led by Naftali Bennett, a former settler leader who opposes a Palestinian state, has ruled out returning to formal peace talks during its tenure.
The Palestinian leadership is divided between the secular Palestinian Authority, which manages parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip.
Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington.