Israeli police shoot and kill autistic Palestinian man they thought had a gun


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Border Police shot and killed an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem that they believed to be armed but was not.

One of the officers was placed under house arrest and the second was released from police custody and placed under restrictive conditions.

Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, has apologized for the killing of Iyad Halak, 32, on Saturday morning in the Old City.

Protesters in Jerusalem and Jaffa calling for justice for Halak on Saturday night compared the incident to the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The Border Police officers who chased Halak had been told he was a suspected terrorist and was carrying a gun and ordered him to stop walking, according to reports. Halak ignored their orders, likely because he didn’t understand the orders as a result of his autism, and the suspicious object turned out to be his cellphone, according to reports.

“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,” Halak’s father, Kheiri, told the Kan public broadcaster.

Halak, of eastern Jerusalem, was heading to a school for students with special needs, where he also worked. He fled on foot after the police continued to yell at him. Police shot him at least seven times during the chase.

“We are really sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death and we share in the family’s grief,” Gantz, also the prime minister-delegate, said at the regular weekly Cabinet meeting, Haaretz reported. “I am sure this subject will be investigated swiftly and conclusions will be reached.”

The shooting came less than a day after a car-ramming attack in the northern West Bank attempted to run down Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian driver was shot and killed.

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