Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed his condolences Sunday morning for the death of Eyad Hallaq, a Palestinian man with special needs who was shot and killed by Israeli police Saturday in Jerusalem, ahead of Hallaq's funeral.
"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."
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Hallaq's funeral is set to take place later Sunday.
Hallaq, 32, resided in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz. He attended and worked in a special needs school in the Old City, just meters away from where he was shot Saturday morning.
According to a statement by the Border Police, two officers noticed Hallaq carrying a suspicious object that they thought was a gun and ordered him to stop. After the man refused and started fleeing the scene, the officers started chasing him on foot and opened fire, ultimately killing him.
They later discovered that Hallaq was unarmed.
The Police Internal Investigations Department is investigating the incident.
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According to an initial investigation, the two officers began pursuing Hallaq on foot after being alerted about a suspected terrorist carrying a pistol. “We suspected he acted alone and responded according to protocol,” one of the officers said during questioning.
The more senior officer of the two shot in the air while the junior officer shot at Hallaq, who was trying to hide behind a dumpster. The junior officer said he suspected Hallaq was a terrorist because he was wearing gloves.
After being questioned under caution, one of the officers was released under restrictive conditions while the other was placed under house arrest.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, the junior officer – who was a new recruit and was armed with an M16 – is suspected of having continued shooting after being told by his commander to stop, doing so because he saw Hallaq was still moving. A Jerusalem court has issued a gag order on the names of the officers involved.
Speaking with Haaretz, Hallaq family members said “he wasn’t capable of harming anyone” and was autistic and classified as disabled.
Hallaq's father said that his son would go to the special needs school every day. “He never had problems with the police. In the morning we received a call from the special needs facility, telling us our son had been killed.”
Protests demanding justice for Hallaq took place in Jerusalem and Jaffa on Saturday evening. Demonstrators carried photos of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis last week and whose killing spurred nationwide protests in the U.S. against police brutality.
Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, an alliance of four predominantly Arab parties, expressed his condolences over Hallaq's death.
“We must fight the expected police cover up and make sure that the officers [responsible] go to prison ... At the same time we must remember that those officers were the ones who pulled the trigger, but the occupation loaded the gun. Justice will be served only when the Hallaq family and the entire Palestinian people will have freedom and independence,” Odeh said