'We Don't Need to Import Minneapolis': Israeli Minister Urges Calm Over Police Killing of Autistic Palestinian

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Public Security Minister Amir Ohana in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 3, 2020
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 3, 2020Credit: Adina Wallman/ Knesset Speaker's Office
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana urged the public not to turn to violence on Wednesday amid anger over the fatal shooting of the unarmed, special needs Palestinian man Eyad Hallaq by police in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“We don’t need to import Minneapolis,” said Ohana, referencing the focal point of unrest across the United States over the past week over the killing of  George Floyd by police in the Minnesota city.

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Hundreds protested on Tuesday in several cities across Israel and the West Bank against police brutality, with four activists detained in Jerusalem.

Police will review how officers handle people with disabilities in light of Saturday's shooting, Ohana said, adding that there had been no change in police open-fire regulations.

Eyad Hallaq.

“I have expressed my regrets and I shall do so again here over the shooting of Eyad, and I also express my condolences, believe it or not, my genuine condolences toward his family, the Hallaq family. He was a person in unfortunate circumstances without a doubt, the family is in unfortunate circumstances,” Ohana said.

“This incident is under investigation so I shall not pronounce a sentence, but I think we can say with confidence that the family deserves our embrace. I sent this message out publicly and I say it again from here, and we in the Israel Police really intend to … investigate the handling of disabled people, identifying the disabilities, spotting them if possible in the field… perhaps there are matters that could be understood in order to avoid a recurrence of this sort of case. There is room for this, I tell you. The police will do so. There is already work underway and I intend to advance it so that we see as few such cases as possible taking place.”

Ohana was replying to an agenda item introduced by Joint List lawmaker Yousef Jabareen after the fatal shooting of Mustafa Younis, who suffered from a psychiatric condition, by a hospital guard after an attempted stabbing outside Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer last month.

Jabareen said of Younis' killing: “This was an execution. A helpless guy, who had been neutralized and lying on the road, and he was shot at from all directions. This loss could have been prevented. I stand here and fear the cover-up that will just go on. Why? Because he was an Arab youth. When you say 'the responsibility is his' about a citizen who attacks the police, you are giving the green light to cops to continue this lethally violent conduct. Not a day passed after that statement being made and we saw Eyad Hallaq of East Jerusalem murdered as well.”

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.

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