Israeli Army Says Cause of Disabled Palestinian Protester's Death Unknown, Soldiers Didn't Fire at Him

Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, who lost both his legs in an Israeli airstrike in 2009 and used a wheelchair, who was killed Friday in clashes near Gaza border

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 19, 2017 shows handicapped Palestinian demonstrator Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh waving a Palestinian flag during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the blockade on Gaza, near the border fence east of Gaza City.
AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED

The army has completed its inquiry into the death of a Palestinian double leg amputee who was demonstrating near the Gaza border last Friday, but said it was unable to conclude whether he was killed by Israeli forces or what caused his death.

The results of the inquiry were presented to journalists Monday by the head of the army’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir.

Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, who lost both his legs in an Israeli airstrike in 2009 and used a wheelchair, was killed during a day of violent demonstrations in the Gaza Strip on Friday. The inquiry report said the demonstration he attended involved thousands of violent rioters, and several other similarly violent demonstrations took place at other places along the Gaza border with Israel.

Wheelchair-bound Palestinian demonstrator Ibraheem Abu Thuraya, who according to medics was killed later on Friday during clashes with Israeli troops, gestures during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City December 15, 2017.    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

>> The shooting of a legless man | Opinion ■ The Israeli military first took his legs, then his life | Opinion <<

During the demonstration Abu Thuraya attended, Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers along the border, hurled explosives at them and burned tires, the report said. Some of the demonstrators also tried to sabotage the border fence.

The report acknowledged that in addition to the massive use of standard riot dispersal equipment, some of the soldiers fired live bullets at the demonstrators. But it said they shot “only a few bullets” aimed “precisely at the main inciters, with the approval of a senior commander in the field.” Moreover, it said, none of those bullets was aimed at Abu Thuraya.

Though the army repeatedly asked the Palestinians for “precise details and conclusions about the characteristics” of Abu Thuraya’s fatal injury, the report continued, no such information was received, the army said.

In the absence of this information, and lacking any ability to conduct its own inquiries in Gaza, the army said it could not rule out the possibility that Abu Thuraya was actually killed by bullets fired from the gun of one of the demonstrators, the report said.

“If additional details are received, they will be examined,” it added.

The report concluded that there was “no ethical or professional lapse” in the soldiers’ conduct. Zamir even praised the Gaza Division, both for the way it prepared for the demonstrations and for what he termed its good judgment and restraint in containing the demonstrators and ensuring that they didn’t cross the border or damage Israeli infrastructure.

According to Palestinians, on Friday, Abu Thuraya and dozens of other young Palestinians gathered near the border fence east of Gaza City’s Shujaiyeh neighborhood, where a journalist filmed him waving a Palestinian flag and shouting at the soldiers, “This is our land and we won’t capitulate to Trump’s announcement; we’ll continue to protest by the fence. We’re members of the Palestinian nation, a nation of heroes.”

Eyewitnesses said he was sitting in his wheelchair and waving his flag when a live bullet hit him in the head, killing him instantly.

Thousands of people attended his funeral in A-Shati on Saturday, including the head of Hamas’ political wing in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. At the funeral, people shouted for revenge and charged that the Israeli soldiers could see Abu Thuraya was disabled but shot him anyway.

Over the weekend, two other Palestinians were killed in addition to Abu Thuraya; 23-year-old Yasser Sukar, also in Gaza, and 29-year-old Mustafa Basel from the West Bank.