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Israeli Police Killing Of Palestinian Leads To Apologies And Echoes Of The U.S.

Palestinians lift banners protesting the killing of Eyad Hallaq, a Palestinian man with autism shot dead by Israeli police, and the case of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by policeman in the U.S., during a rally by supporters of the Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Palestinians lift banners protesting the killing of Eyad Hallaq, a Palestinian man with autism shot dead by Israeli police, and the case of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by policeman in the U.S., during a rally by supporters of the Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Hebron.

A fatal Israeli police shooting of an unarmed Palestinian man in Jerusalem last weekend has led to a government apology and protests comparing the case to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Eyad Hallaq, 32, was on his way to a school for special needs students in the historic Old City of Jerusalem on May 30 when police shouted, "terrorist!" before shooting him as he fled, an eyewitness told Israeli TV.

The human rights group B'Tselem cites at least 11 cases during 2018 and 2019 of Israeli forces fatally shooting Palestinians as they fled. Hallaq's killing has elicited particular shock because the victim had autism.

The eyewitness, his school counselor Warda Abu Hadid, told local media she shouted to the Israeli officers, "he's disabled," as the wounded Hallaq shouted, "I'm with her." Minutes later, a police officer, who police say mistakenly thought Hallaq had a gun, fatally shot him.

Hallaq's mother told reporters her son used to fear passing the police on his way to class and she had told him that he would be safe if he had his ID with him.

Police have not identified the officer who killed Hallaq, who remains under house arrest as police investigate.

"Policing in Jerusalem and in particular in the Old City is a particularly complex task that involves complex decisions and the risk of life," the police said in a statement following the shooting.

Officers patrolling in the Old City have faced numerous attacks by Palestinians in recent years.

Israeli officials have been remorseful about Hallaq's death. "We are very sorry," Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a cabinet meeting, vowing a swift investigation. "The family deserves a hug," said Public Security Minister Amir Ohana.

But Ohana said he did not want Israel to be engulfed in the kind of street protests happening in the U.S., saying he did not want to "bring Minneapolis here."

Over the past week, several hundred protesters gathered in small demonstrations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Their chants and posters echoed the language of U.S. protests against police brutality and the killing of Floyd. In one protest in downtown Jerusalem, demonstrators chanted, "I can't breathe" and carried signs that read "Palestinian Lives Matter" and "Justice For Eyad, Justice for George."

"This [killing] is not a mistake, this is not an aberration," Hala Marshood, 28, a Palestinian protester said by phone to NPR. "It's a systemized policy towards Palestinians, oppressing an entire population."

There's been an outpouring of grief from Israelis from across the spectrum, particularly parents of children with autism. Aviad Friedman, an Israeli father of a child with autism, paid Hallaq's father a condolence visit, despite friends warning him against traveling alone to a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem.

In an emotional op-ed on a religious Jewish website, Friedman said his son was also identified as suspicious and was detained aggressively by police in Jerusalem's Old City eight years ago.

"I do not think [the Hallaq killing] is similar to the incident in Minneapolis," he wrote, citing the stress Israeli police face in Jerusalem. But he added, "I expect and hope there will be a real hard investigation ... to give final justice to Eyad's father's family."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.