Rivlin on Killing of Autistic Palestinian: Everything Must Be Done to Avoid Repeat of Such an Incident

Eyad Hallaq was shot by Border Police in Jerusalem’s Old City in late May after he was mistaken for a terrorist despite his counselor yelling to the officers that he's disabled

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President Reuven Rivlin applauded after his speech at the German parliament in Berlin, January 29, 2020.
President Reuven Rivlin applauded after his speech at the German parliament in Berlin, January 29, 2020.Credit: MICHELE TANTUSSI/ REUTERS

Commenting Tuesday on the death late last month of Eyad Hallaq, an East Jerusalem Palestinian with special needs who was shot dead by Border Police, President Reuven Rivlin called for “everything to be done so that such an incident does not repeat itself.”

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Rivlin said that while they wait for the results of the investigation by the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit of this serious incident, "I expect that this investigation will be carried out fully and efficiently as soon as possible,” Rivlin said. “We have to understand exactly what happened and learn a lesson.”

At the President’s Residence on Tuesday, Rivlin hosted the first meeting of an inter-ministerial committee that is seeking to improve police interactions with people with disabilities.

“It’s not an act of fate,” Rivlin said. “If we manage to get to know and understand and make the required adjustments, we can ensure the safety and respectful and equal treatment of everyone.”

Eyad Hallaq.

The president called for law enforcement officials to meet with “the various population groups that make up Israeli society, to get to know one another” and to train law enforcement on the complexity of their situations. “A society that is not there for the helpless among it is not fit to call itself a society. I beg you, cabinet ministers, Finance Ministry experts, to understand that the helpless need to be accorded a central place on the agenda when it comes to setting the state budget.”

On Monday, Haaretz reported that an additional witness to the shooting of Hallaq said that he was shot while he was on the ground and while his counselor yelled to the Border Police that he was disabled.

The witness’ account conforms for the most part with the eyewitness of the counselor from the Elwyn al Quds center for people with special needs that Hallaq attended, who was also present at the time of the incident. Warda Abu Hadid said that she yelled to the Border Police in Hebrew that Hallaq was disabled and that Hallaq had yelled in Arabic that he was “with her,” meaning with the counselor.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the killing of Hallaq, calling it "a tragedy." Netanyahu told his ministers he expects them to conduct a full investigation into the shooting.

"This is a person with disabilities, autism, who was suspected ‒ as we know, wrongly ‒ of being a terrorist in a very sensitive place. We all share in the grief of the family," Netanyahu told the ministers. "I expect your complete examinations into this matter."

In late May, Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed his condolences for Hallaq's death, saying "We are very sorry for this incident. I am sure the issue will be investigated quickly, and conclusions will be drawn."

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