Israeli Army Closes Case in Death of Disabled Gaza Protester, Citing No Evidence Soldiers Shot Him

Ibraheem Abu Thuraya was killed in border protests in December 2017 and medical records show he was shot in the head

Ibraheem Abu Thuraya gestures during a protest near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City December 15, 2017.
MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

The Israeli army’s criminal investigation division has decided to close its probe into the death of Ibraheem Abu Thuraya, a disabled Gazan demonstrator who was killed in December 2017 in protests near the Israeli border.

The Israeli army spokesman said Wednesday that the division had questioned soldiers and commanders who had witnessed the incident and also examined video footage of the incident, but found no evidence that Abu Thuraya was killed by direct Israeli army fire.

According to the army, the investigation found that after Palestinian protesters hurled makeshift grenades, pipe bombs, firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, the forces initially responded with riot dispersal measures. “In a small number of cases, live fire was directed at the lower portion of the bodies of the main rioters,” the army said.

The army added that it had contacted Palestinian officials in an effort to obtain the bullet that hit Abu Thuraya to examine it, but the request was denied.

Abu Thuraya's legs had been amputated in 2008 after he was wounded in an Israeli military operation in Gaza. He was confined to a wheelchair as a result.

On December 15, 2017, he took part in a protest along the Israeli border over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In the course of the demonstration, he was shot and killed. Eyewitnesses said that shortly before he was shot, Abu Thuraya waved a Palestinian flag and shouted at the soldiers.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said later that Abu Thuraya suffered gunshot wounds to his upper body, but the IDF investigation found that the cause of his death could not be determined. The army said at the time that no live fire was directed at Abu Thuraya and that the soldiers only fired a few precisely aimed bullets at the “main inciters.”

Two weeks later, however, The Associated Press reported that medical records from Gaza indicated that he had been shot in the head and had died of a brain hemorrhage.

Abu Thuraya was a resident of the Shati refugee camp and was married with three children. He was employed at a car wash after his disability made it impossible to continue working as a fisherman. His relatives said that, despite his physical limitations, he insisted on taking part in the protest marches near the border fence.