Hundreds of mourners have called for revenge against Israel after guards shot and killed a mentally disabled Palestinian man on his way to a special needs school.
Iyad Halak, 32, who had severe autism, was unarmed when he was killed in the Old City on Saturday, prompting a wave of Palestinian outrage and a rare public apology from Defence Minister Benny Gantz at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Israel’s Channel 12 reported that forces fired at Halak’s legs and chased him into an alley. A senior officer is then said to have called for an end to the firing, but a second officer ignored the command and fired six or seven bullets from an M-16 rifle.
Israeli officials said Halak had been holding “a suspicious object that looked like a pistol” but he was found to have been unarmed. Police later raided his family’s home, but found no weapons there either.
Halak’s father told Israel’s public broadcaster that the object his son was holding was likely to have been his mobile phone. “We tell him every morning to keep his phone in his hand so we can be in contact with him and make sure he has safely arrived,” his father said.
As hundreds of angry mourners attended his funeral, comparisons were quickly made with the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in America.
Ayman Odeh, Israel’s most senior Arab politician, said there would be “a cover-up” but that the guards who killed Halak should be jailed, as sporadic protests in both West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv carried placards reading: “Palestinian lives matter.”
Gantz, a former IDF Chief of Staff, said: “We are really sorry about the incident and we share in the family’s grief. I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”
However, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin later rose to address the same cabinet meeting, he did not mention Halak’s killing.