Israeli PM’s first public remarks on killing of autistic Palestinian

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

In a public address to his Cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the shooting of an autistic Palestinian man at the hands of the police a “tragedy”.

On May 30, 32-year-old Iyad Hallak was walking to his special needs school in Jerusalem’s Old City when he was confronted by police officers who suspected him to be carrying a weapon. The area has recently witnessed a spate of attacks by Palestinians on Israelis and in many of these cases, the assailants have been shot dead by the police.

Hallak’s family said he was severely autistic and panicked when the police asked him to stop. He didn’t understand them and was scared, according to his carer Warda Abu Hadid. Though she tried to warn them that he was disabled, the police chased him and fired three bullets at him, twice in the chest, killing him instantly. They later found that he was unarmed.

Hallak’s killing led to an outpouring of grief and outrage. Hundreds of people attended his funeral while many Palestinians and Israelis took to the streets protesting his death. Comparisons have been drawn between his death and that of George Floyd in the United States, with social media trending hashtags like ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’. The internal affairs division of the police department is reportedly investigating the incident while the officer who shot Hallak has been released from custody and placed under house arrest.

So far, the Prime Minister hadn’t made any public remarks on the issue. At a previous cabinet session, when Benny Gantz – Defence Minister and Netanyahu’s partner in Israel’s new unity government – publicly apologised for Hallak’s death, Netyanhu who was sitting by his side remained silent. Critics say even his recent statement falls short of an apology.

PM Netanyahu said that everyone shared the grief of the family. He said that the disabled man was wrongly suspected of being a terrorist while in a very sensitive venue. Addressing Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana, Netanyahu said he expected a full investigation into the matter.

The incident comes at a time when there are heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine over Netanyahu’s declared intention to annex parts of the West Bank that have Israeli settlements.

More than a week after the death of an autistic Palestinian man at the hands of Israeli police, PM Netanyahu spoke publicly about the incident.

Related News: Netanyahu’s annexation plan would leave Palestinians with limited self-rule under overall Israeli control

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