Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally spoken about the ruthless killing of a Palestinian autistic man by Israeli police, describing it as a “tragedy”. He also called for a probe of the incident.
Netanyahu’s statement came a week after Israel’s defence minister and Alternate Prime Minister, Benny Gantz expressed his apologies.
Iyad Hallaq, 32, was shot in occupied East Jerusalem as he walked to his special needs school on 30 May.
Mr. Netanyahu had not commented publicly on the killing until now.
“What happened with Iyad Halaq is a tragedy,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting. “This is a man with limitations – autism – who was under suspicion, we know, wrongly, of being a terrorist in a very sensitive location.”
On Sunday he offered his condolences and said he expected a full investigation into the shooting.
Police said officers suspected Mr. Hallaq had a weapon and that they opened fire when he failed to obey orders to stop. It was discovered he was unarmed.
The Hallaq family’s lawyer Jad Qadmani said “suspicion of criminal action on behalf of the officers is growing”, and he expected “those responsible for the investigation will proceed and bring the officers to justice”, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
In recent years there has been a spate of attacks – many of them deadly – by Palestinians against Israelis in and around the Old City, with assailants shot dead by police in many cases.
An Israeli police statement said units “spotted a suspect with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol”.
“They called upon him to stop and began to chase after him on foot. During the chase, officers also opened fire at the suspect, who was neutralised,” it added. “No weapon was found at the scene after the area was searched.”
An autopsy found Mr. Hallaq was shot twice in the chest.
Mr. Hallaq’s cousin, Dr. Hatem Awiwi, said he was on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum and that he had trouble communicating with people. He said Mr. Hallaq did not know what a police officer was and had just fled.
The shooting sparked widespread anger, with thousands attending Mr. Hallaq’s funeral, while many Palestinians and Israelis took the streets to protest over his death.
Activists have drawn parallels with the killing of George Floyd in the US, which has sparked widespread protests. Social media users have been using the hashtag “Palestinian lives matter” to share their outrage.
It comes at a time of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the wake of Mr. Netanyahu’s declared intention to annex parts of the occupied West Bank – something which has been met with outrage by Palestinians. (Source: BBC)