Hundreds marched through the streets of East Jerusalem late Sunday, chanting nationalist slogans of revenge at the funeral of an unarmed Palestinian man with special needs who was killed after Israeli police apparently mistook him for a terrorist.
Iyad Halak, 32, was shot dead in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday, with police saying he had appeared to be holding a gun. But Halak was unarmed and had apparently not understood officers’ orders to halt as he passed near the Lion’s Gate. He reportedly fled on foot and hid in a garbage room, where he was gunned down.
Halak was carried in an open green coffin on the shoulders of the mourners, his body draped in a Palestinian flag.
Videos posted to social media showed many of the mourners angrily chanting nationalistic slogans calling for revenge.
لن تركع أمة قائدها محمد
خيبر خيبر يا يهود جيش محمد بدأ يعود
جنازة الشهيد اياد الحلاق pic.twitter.com/od49TFURUa
— أركــــــــــــــــان (@ar2aan) May 31, 2020
Chanting “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Mohammad’s army has began to return” and “to the street, revolutionaries!” the crowd marched down Salah A-Din street toward the Maqbarat al-Mujahideen, literally “the cemetery of those who pursue Jihad.”
The cry relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims, led by the Prophet Mohammad, massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
Ahead of the funeral, demonstrations were held against police brutality on Saturday and Sunday night in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Some held signs drawing connections between the case of Halak and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked protests across the United States.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed sorrow for the deadly shooting.
“We are sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death and we share the family’s grief,” Gantz told the cabinet meeting. “I am sure this matter will be investigated quickly and conclusions will be reached.”
The policemen gave conflicting accounts of the events, with a commander telling investigators he had urged his subordinate to cease fire, an order that was not followed, he said, according to reports in the Hebrew media. The officer denied the commander’s account.
The two were questioned under caution on Saturday. One officer was placed under house arrest and his commander was released from custody under restrictive conditions.
Investigators were looking into whether Halak was shot only after taking refuge in the garbage room, and not during the foot chase. Witnesses said there were at least seven shots fired in his direction.
A caregiver who accompanied Halak told Israeli media Sunday that she told the police officers he was disabled and did not understand their commands, but they appeared to ignore her cries.
Halak had been on his way to a special needs educational institution in the Old City where he studied. His father, Kheiri Hayak, told the Kan public broadcaster he believed his son was holding his cellphone when he was first spotted by the police.
“We tell him every morning to keep his phone in his hand so we can be in contact with him and make sure he has safely arrived at the educational institution,” Kheiri said.
Amir Ohana, the new public security minister who oversees police, expressed sorrow for Halak’s death and vowed to investigate. But he said it was early to “pass sentence” on the police officers involved, noting that they “are required to make fateful decisions in seconds in an area that has been inundated with terror attacks, and in which there is a constant danger to their lives.”