Netanyahu calls shooting of autistic Palestinian man a ‘tragedy’


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the killing of an autistic Palestinian man by the Israel Border Police “tragedy.”

Netanyahu made the statement on Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, eight days after Iyad Halak was shot in the Old City of Jerusalem by officers who believed he was armed. It was the prime minister’s first comment on the incident.

Border Police officers had been told Halak was an armed terrorist and ordered him to stop walking. Halak ignored their orders, likely because he didn’t understand them as a result of his autism. He then fled on foot and was shot at least seven times. The object that aroused suspicions about him was found to be a cellphone.

“This was a man with disabilities, autism, who was suspected – we know wrongly – of being a terrorist in a very sensitive place. I know that the inquiries are being made. We all share in the family’s sorrow.  I think that this embraces the entire Israeli public, as well as the entire Israeli government,” Netanyahu said.

“I await your full inquiries on this matter,” he added, seemingly referring to the police.

At last week’s Cabinet meeting, Defense Minister and Prime Minister Designate Benny Gantz apologized for the incident and said a full investigation would be immediately undertaken.

The police officer who shot and killed Iyad has been placed under house arrest.

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