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Israeli defense minister apologizes for fatal police shooting of unarmed Palestinian man

Muslim men carry the body of Iyad Halak to burial after Israeli police shot him dead in Jerusalem's old city on May 31, 2020.
(Mahmoud Illean / Associated Press)

Israel’s defense minister has apologized for the Israeli police’s deadly shooting of an unarmed Palestinian man who was autistic.

The killing of Iyad Halak, 32, in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday drew broad condemnations and revived complaints alleging excessive force by Israeli security forces. Some activists compared the shooting to the recent cases of police violence in the U.S., including the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, the black man who died after a white police officer pinned his neck to the ground for several minutes.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is also the country’s “alternate” prime minister under an unusual power-sharing deal, made the apology Sunday at the weekly meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. He sat near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made no mention of the incident in his opening remarks.

“We are really sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death, and we share in the family’s grief,” Gantz said. “I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”

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Halak’s relatives said he had autism and was heading to a school for students with special needs where he studied each day when he was shot.

In a statement, Israeli police said they spotted a suspect “with a suspicious object that looked like a pistol.” When he failed to obey orders to stop, officers opened fire, the statement said. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld later said no weapon was found.

The criminal trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins, culminating yers of police investigations and judicial probes.

Israeli media reported that the officers involved were questioned after the incident as per protocol and a lawyer representing one of them sent his condolences to the family in an interview with Israeli Army Radio.

Lone Palestinian attackers with no clear links to armed groups have carried out a series of stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks in recent years.

But Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups have long accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force in some cases, either by killing individuals who could have been arrested or using lethal force when their lives were not in danger.


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