Unarmed Palestinian Killed by Police Died of Two Bullet Wounds to His Torso, Autopsy Shows

Funeral of Eyad Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic man, who was shot near the special needs school he attended in Jerusalem's Old City, commenced late Sunday evening

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Israeli police near the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem, where Hallaq was shot, May 30, 2020.
Israeli police near the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem, where Hallaq was shot, May 30, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Results of the forensic autopsy on the body of Eyad Hallaq, an autistic Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli police in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday, revealed Sunday that Hallaq died from two bullet wounds to his torso, a source involved in the investigation said.

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. He was unarmed.

Eyad Hallaq.
Eyad Hallaq.

The family received Hallaq’s body near 10 P.M. on Sunday evening, and the funeral commenced shortly afterward.

The autopsy took place at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir, located in Tel Aviv. A pathologist representing the family was also present. 

Following the autopsy, Hallaq’s father was summoned to the police station at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem to make funeral arrangements. The father and the police agreed on a path for the funeral procession, however in contrast to similar events, the police did not limit the number of participants. 

“According to the findings, the suspicion of criminal action on behalf of the officers is growing and we expect that those responsible for the investigation will proceed and bring the officers to justice,” said Attorney Jad Qadmani, who represents the Hallaq family. 

On Saturday evening, the family said they expected that the police would ask to put off the funeral to the latest possible hour in order to prevent a large gathering that could devolve into a violent demonstration. 

Sunday evening, police forceful dispersed several dozen Palestinians who gathered at the Damascus Gate in protest of Hallaq’s killing.

On Sunday, the main suspect in the case, a soldier who was recruited to the Border Police in recent months, told investigators that he and his commander were called to the area after they were alerted of "a terrorist armed with a live weapon on the way to the Lion's Gate." 

The two arrived at the scene and were pointed in the direction of Hallaq by Jerusalem District Police officers and commenced the chase. In the course of the chase, the commanding officer shot several times in Hallaq's direction and missed, the junior officer said. When they arrived at the building where Hallaq was hiding the younger officer opened fire, he said. The suspect claimed that Hallaq, "made a motion that looked like preparation to draw, and I thought he was going to pull a weapon on me."

The officer is currently being held under house arrest and is expected to be interviewed byagain in coming days. His lawyer, Efrat Nahmani Bar, said, "My client felt his life was in real danger after the soldiers received the report of an armed terrorist." Nahmani Bar said that Hallaq did not stop when called, and added, "This is a tragedy and we offer our condolences to the family. With that, the shooting was in coordination with the guidelines and procedures that were given to the soldiers and the situation in the field."

A Jerusalem court has issued a gag order on the names of the officers involved.

According to a statement by the Border Police on Saturday, two officers noticed Hallaq carrying a suspicious object that they thought was a gun and ordered him to stop. After he refused and started fleeing the scene, the officers started chasing him on foot and opened fire, ultimately killing him.

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, the commanding officer was released under restrictive conditions while the junior officer 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.

Speaking with Haaretz, Hallaq's 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.”

UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov offered his condolences Sunday on Twitter. "A tragedy that should and could have been avoided! The authorities should swiftly investigate and make sure such incidents are not allowed to happen," Mladenov wrote. The UK Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan also spoke out on Twitter. "I hope lessons will be learned, and every effort made to avoid future unnecessary loss of live," he wrote.

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

Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz said: "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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