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UN rights chief urges probe into ‘shocking’ killing of disabled Palestinian protester by IDF

The UN human rights office has condemned the killing of a wheelchair-bound Palestinian, and denounced the excessive use of force by Israel amid the protests in the wake of the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“The facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force used against Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was excessive,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said Tuesday.

At least four Palestinians were killed and more than 150 injured, as thousands took to the streets of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem last Friday. Among those killed was 29-year-old Thurayeh, a disabled activist confined to a wheelchair after losing both of his legs, allegedly, in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008.

Social media was flooded with videos and photos of Thurayeh a few hours before his death – sitting in his wheelchair and waving a Palestinian flag. “This land is our land, we will not give up. America has to withdraw its decision,” he reportedly said in a video seen by AFP.

Hours later, Thurayeh was shot and killed by Israeli forces during clashes in Anata, a village just outside Jerusalem, where the IDF fired live ammunition and rubber bullets against the Palestinians. The UN human rights chief condemned the mass and brutal crackdown by Israeli forces, describing Thurayeh’s killing as a “shocking and wanton act.”

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“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,” Hussein said.

He maintains the IDF acted against international human rights law which strictly regulates the use of force against demonstrators. “The lethal use of firearms should only be employed as the last resort, when strictly unavoidable, in order to protect life,” Hussein pointed out.

Following the deadly clashes Friday, the Israeli military said that “during the violent riots IDF soldiers fired selectively towards main instigators,” after rioters threw firebombs, rocks and rolled burning tires at soldiers and border police.

Following the backlash over the death of the 29-year-old disabled Palestinian, the Israeli army announced Sunday that it was launching an investigation into the case. In a swift review, the IDF said Monday its soldiers did not intentionally fire at Thurayeh. “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.”

At least five people have been killed so far and over a thousand injured as Israel continue to fire live munitions, rubber bullets and other dispersal weapons to crack down on Palestinians following Trump's December 6 declaration which spurred mass unrest, the UN said Tuesday. Palestine’s Maan news agency, however, estimates that at least 10 Palestinians were killed in the two weeks of ongoing clashes after Hamas urged a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem. The use of live ammunition has resulted in over 220 people being injured in Gaza, including 95 on Friday alone, according to UN figures.

“This level of casualties raises serious concerns as to whether the force used by Israeli forces was properly calibrated to the threat,” Hussein said. He urged Israel to “immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into this” and other deadly incidents. “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.”

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