A Palestinian man died after he was beaten by Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho early Thursday.
Yasin al-Saradih, 33, was arrested from his house at approximately 2 am, Eid Barahmeh, head of the Palestinian prisoners club in Jericho, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Israeli forces notified the family of al-Saradih’s death two hours later.
The Israeli military changed its story about the events surrounding al-Saradih’s death after a video emerged showing soldiers striking him.
The video shows a number of soldiers gathered around al-Saradih, some apparently beating him while he is on the ground. They then drag his body away. The video does not show al-Saradih posing any threat to them.
Al-Saradih’s brother-in-law, Ismail al-Masri, told local media that Israeli soldiers beat al-Saradih “in every part of his body, especially his stomach and back.”
Prisoners rights group Addameer and the Palestinian Prisoners Club are calling al-Saradih’s death an extrajudicial killing.
“Israeli occupation forces routinely use excessive force in an unnecessary and disproportionate manner, which is in violation of international law,” the groups said.
Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Authority’s prisoners affairs committee, told local radio on Thursday that the cause of al-Saradih’s death was a severe beating to the head.
Al-Saradih’s family told Haaretz that he did not suffer from any prior medical issues. They added that he was not affiliated with any political organizations.
Al-Saradih had previously been wounded by gunfire in 2002 during the second intifada.
Before the video was published, the Israeli military had claimed that al-Saradih attacked soldiers with a knife and attempted to steal a gun, Haaretz reported. They also stated that military medics treated al-Saradih on the scene.
The military retracted their initial statement and issued another one after the video emerged.
The new statement alleges that al-Saradih ran towards soldiers who were carrying out arrests of “wanted persons” in the city of Jericho and that he tried to attack them with an iron bar.
“The force responded with gunfire, confronted the terrorist and succeeded in stopping him,” it states.
It does not clearly state his cause of death, however.
According to Haaretz, al-Saradih’s body was taken to Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute for an autopsy, but no bullet wounds were found on the body.
“Therefore, the growing assessment is that the man died from the beating he sustained from the soldiers,” according to Haaretz.
Palestinians are planning to seek another autopsy in a Palestinian hospital once al-Saradih’s body is returned, the Palestinian Authority’s Qaraqe told media.
It is unclear how long Israel will withhold his body or whether it will allow another autopsy.
This is not the first time an official Israeli version of events has had to be revised following the emergence of video, +972 Magazine observed.
For example, Israeli army medic Elor Azarya was caught on video shooting at close range injured and disarmed Palestinian Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif while he was lying incapacitated on a street in Hebron in March 2016.
+972 Magazine characterized the initial reports as, “Soldier stabbed, assailants killed.”
“Everything changed a few hours later when video of the execution-style killing was published,” the Israeli news site added.
Israeli forces killed a second Palestinian during the same incident, Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, though that slaying was not caught on video.
On Thursday, Palestinians in Jericho observed a strike to protest al-Saradih’s killing:
Addameer and the Palestinian Prisoner Club called on international bodies to respond in a way “which seeks accountability from the occupation authorities.”
However, even in cases that UN human rights officials have termed “shocking” and “incomprehensible” – such as December’s shooting by Israeli forces of disabled Palestinian Ibrahim Abu Thurayya – nothing has been done to pierce Israel’s systematic impunity.