The UN’s human rights chief said Tuesday he was “truly shocked” by Israeli troops’ killing of a wheelchair-bound Palestinian protester in Gaza, and demanded an “independent and impartial investigation.”
Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a 29-year-old who lost his legs after an Israeli attack a decade ago, was among five Palestinians killed on Friday during protests against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein slammed Trump’s decision as “dangerously provocative” and blamed it for the violence.
The UN human rights office said Abu Thurayeh was among hundreds of Palestinians who marched across farmland toward the fence separating Gaza from Israel, and appeared to have been shot in the head when he was 20 meters (yards) from the barrier.
“The facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force used against Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was excessive,” Zeid said.
“As far as we can see, there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh 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.”
“Israeli security forces have responded with firearms, including live-ammunition, to disperse the protesters,” Zeid said.
“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.”
Despite the Israeli army’s own internal probe into the events, Zeid urged “an independent and impartial investigation” to ensure perpetrators are held accountable.
In video footage recorded early on Friday, Abu Thurayeh could be seen carrying the Palestinian flag and waving the victory sign at Israeli soldiers across the border.
The army on Monday evening said soldiers did not intentionally shoot Abu Thurayeh, though it could not determine his cause of death.
The army’s investigation did not seem to completely rule out that possibility, but did indicate that Abu Thurayeh was not specifically targeted.
“No live fire was aimed at Abu Thurayeh. It is impossible to determine whether Abu Thurayeh was injured as a result of riot dispersal means or what caused his death,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
“The initial investigation indicates that no moral or professional failures were identified,” the army said.
The military said it was hindered in its investigation by the fact that Palestinian authorities did not share the details of the double-amputee’s injuries from the demonstration.
“Despite numerous IDF requests for information, no precise details or conclusions regarding Abu Toriya’s (sic) injuries were received. If additional details will be received, they will be examined and studied,” the army spokesperson said.
According to the IDF, some 3,500 Palestinians protested along the Gaza security fence on Friday over Trump’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ultimately move the American embassy to the holy city.
Trump said his declaration did not prejudge a final status agreement as part of a future peace deal, but Palestinians have been infuriated by the decision. Palestinians consider East Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of their future state.
In a statement on Sunday, the army blamed the Hamas terrorist group for the border riots. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has been urging Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers in a new intifada following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“These riots are supported by the Hamas terror organization. Hamas sends civilians to the security fence and encourages violence against IDF troops. Any attempt to destroy the fence and cross it is considered a violation of Israeli sovereignty,” the army said.