UN denounces 'excessive' force used by Israeli soldiers in killing of disabled Palestinian protester

Human rights chief calls for independent investigation into death of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 19 December 2017 11:55 GMT
Ibraheem Abu Thuraya had lost his legs and a kidney in an air strike in 2008
Ibraheem Abu Thuraya had lost his legs and a kidney in an air strike in 2008

The UN’s human rights chief has criticised the killing of a disabled Palestinian protester at the border fence between Gaza and Israel, saying evidence gathered by his staff points to the use of “excessive” force.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was “truly shocked” at the killing of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya by Israeli security forces, and has called on Israel to launch an independent investigation into the incident, which took place 15 November.

The Palestinian Authority’s health ministry said Mr Thuraya was shot just east of Gaza City, with the Israeli army saying it opened fire on the “main instigators” of violent protests at the Gaza border.

Protests have erupted throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and in occupied Gaza, since Donald Trump‘s decision earlier this month to officially recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The response by Israel has left five people dead and hundreds injured and led to mass arrests of Palestinians, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

“The facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force ustyhued against Ibrahim Abu Thuraya was excessive,” Mr Zeid said. “International human rights law strictly regulates the use of force in the context of protests and demonstrations.

Timelapse footage shows scene as undercover Israeli soldiers start arresting Palestinians during protest

“The lethal use of firearms should only be employed as the last resort, when strictly unavoidable, in order to protect life. However, as far as we can see, there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Ibrahim Abu Thuraya was posing an imminent threat of death or serious injury when he was killed.

“Given his severe disability, which must have been clearly visible to those who shot him, his killing is incomprehensible – a truly shocking and wanton act.”

The Israeli army announced on Monday it was launching an investigation. The results were presented to Major General Eyal Zamir, head of the Southern Command, on Monday.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a statement: “No live fire was aimed at Abu Thuraya. It is impossible to determine whether Abu Thuraya was injured as a result of riot dispersal means or what caused his death.”

“The initial investigation indicates that no moral or professional failures were identified,” a spokesperson said.

“Maj-Gen Zamir stated that the commanding officers took proactive positions during the entire riot. He also noted that troops showed restraint in the use of force. This, in order to protect the sovereignty of the State of Israel, to prevent infiltration and harm to security infrastructures.”

They added: “Despite numerous IDF requests for information, no precise details or conclusions regarding Abu Thuraya’s injuries were received. If additional details will be received, they will be examined and studied.”

Mr Thuraya had lost his legs and a kidney in an air strike, according to local reports, and was regularly seen with other Palestinian activists at protests.

“He was injured in 2008 by an Israeli helicopter that targeted him after he brought down the Israeli flag and raised the Palestinian flag along the border,” his brother Samir told AFP .

“It did not stop him from demonstrating for Jerusalem. He went alone every day to the border.”

The biggest outbreak of violence since Mr Trump’s announcement has been in Gaza, where three people have been killed and hundreds more injured as protesters burned tyres, threw stones, sang songs and waved flags along the fence. Israeli security forces responded with firearms to disperse the protesters, OHCHR said.

“This level of casualties raises serious concerns as to whether the force used by Israeli forces was properly calibrated to the threat,” Mr Zeid said. “And these events, including the loss of five irreplaceable human lives, can sadly be traced directly back to the unilateral US announcement on the status of Jerusalem, which breaks international consensus and was dangerously provocative.

“At the same time, I unequivocally condemn all attacks against civilians, including the indiscriminate shelling of Israeli civilian areas by armed Palestinian groups operating out of Gaza.”

The Independent has contacted the Israeli embassy for comment.

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