Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Justice for Eyad; unrest continues after the shooting of unarmed, autistic Palestinian man

By The Palestine Monitor - June 10, 2020
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [attacks on Palestinians]

Protests have continued across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel ten days after an autistic Palestinian man, Eyad al-Halak, was fatally shot by two Israeli police officers on Saturday, May 30.

Israeli forces claimed al-Halak, 32, from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz, was carrying a gun before shooting him several times with an M-16 as he was attempting to run away after they ordered him to stop. 

Halak's caretaker told Israel's Channel 13 News that she had repeatedly tried to warn police, shouting in Hebrew "He's disabled! He's disabled!" at the officers before they proceeded to gun him down. 

“Suddenly they fired three bullets at him, in front of my eyes,” she told Channel 13. “I shouted: 'Don’t shoot him.’ They didn’t listen; they didn’t want to hear.”

Following the shooting, Israeli police sealed off the Old City and local media reported that medics were barred from entering the area to attend al-Halak’s body.

Halak's family told Israeli news daily Haaretz that their son, diagnosed with autism, was unarmed, and "wasn't capable of harming anyone" and that he would not have understood the police instructions ordering him to stop running.

The day after the shooting, Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz issued a rare apology.

"We are very sorry for this incident," Gantz said in a government meeting. "I am sure the issue will be investigated quickly, and conclusions will be drawn."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained silent until the following week, saying he was "truly sorry."

"What happened with Iyad Halak is a tragedy," Netanyahu said during his cabinet meeting Sunday. "This was a man with a disability — autism, who was suspected — we know without justification — of being a militant in a highly sensitive area."

Al-Halak’s family have told the media that his body was transferred to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, which holds bodies of Palestinians killed in alleged attacks on Israelis, adding that the authorities have not provided them with further details.

The institute is notoriously known as the place where Palestinian organs and body parts have been harvested. 


Heightened by international outrage over the death of US citizen George Fllyod, an unarmed black man who was killed as a police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, protests in Palestine and Israel parallelled calls for ending systemic racism at the hands of police and law enforcement.

Demanding accountability and the release of footage of al-Halak’s shooting, protests in Jerusalem organised by the activist group Free Jerusalem ended with the arrest of 7 demonstrators as they clashed with police officers on 9 June. 

The Israeli police's internal investigations department is reportedly probing the incident. According to Haaretz, a source within the investigation said one of the officers - a new recruit armed with an M16 assault rifle - is suspected of continuing to shoot at Halak despite being told by his commander to stop.

The family of the slain man remain pessimistic over litigation against the accused police officers. In the last 10 years, Israeli security forces have killed more than 3,400 Palestinians but only five have been convicted.

Riding on the waves of protests around the world under the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Palestinians are not only calling for justice for al-Halak but also an end to Israel’s 72 years long racist apartheid governance over Palestinian land and people. Many at the protests holding banners with “Justice for Eyad, Justice for George” and “Black Lives Matter”.

During demonstrations in Haifa, protesters also held up signs of other unarmed Palestinians who have been shot dead by Israeli forces, such as Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic who Israeli forces shot dead during a Great March of Return protest in Gaza in 2018. 

In 2019, Israeli forces killed at least 132 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, compared to 296 in 2018, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have continuously criticised Israel for what they call its use of "excessive force" and its practice of "extrajudicial executions".




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