x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UN condemns Israel’s ‘shocking and wanton’ killing of Palestinian amputee

Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, who was wheelchair-bound and had no legs, was shot by Israeli security forces last Friday as he protested against President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Palestinian amputee Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was shot during clashes with Israeli security forces. AFP / MOHAMMED ABED
Palestinian amputee Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was shot during clashes with Israeli security forces. AFP / MOHAMMED ABED

A senior UN official has criticised Israel’s killing of a wheelchair-bound Palestinian protester with no legs last Friday, saying he was “truly shocked” by the incident.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the shooting of Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip was “incomprehensible” and that evidence gathered by his staff points to the use of “excessive” force.

"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," Mr Al Hussein's statement said.

Mr Thurayeh, 29, was shot in the head by a sniper close to the border fence east of Gaza City as he protested against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Eight Palestinians have now died and scores hurt since Mr Trump’s declaration two weeks ago, which infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies.

The status of the city has been one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for generations.

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Mr Al Hussein said there was nothing to suggest Mr Thurayeh was posing an imminent threat when he was killed and "the facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force used against [him] was excessive".

His statement said Israel’s heavy-handed response to protests had resulted in loss of lives in Gaza as well as more than 220 injured by live ammunition.

“This level of casualties raises serious concerns as to whether the force used by Israeli forces was properly calibrated to the threat,” he said.

“And these events… can sadly be traced directly back to the unilateral US announcement on the status of Jerusalem, which breaks international consensus and was dangerously provocative.”

International law strictly regulates the use of force in the context of protests and demonstrations, and the lethal use of firearms should only be employed as the last resort when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life, he said.

He called on Israel to launch an independent investigation into the incident.

Mr Thurayeh, who was a regular at border skirmishes, lost both his legs in an Israeli air strike according to local reports.

“He was injured in 2008 by an Israeli helicopter that targeted him after he brought down the Israeli flag and raised the Palestinian flag along the border,” his brother Samir told AFP.

“It did not stop him from demonstrating for Jerusalem. He went alone every day to the border.”

Images online show Mr Thurayeh attempting to make a living despite his serious disability by washing cars.

In the West Bank, the Israeli military said about 2,500 Palestinians had taken part in riots against soldiers and border police officers.

It added that its own investigation had found that it was not possible to say what had killed Mr Thurayeh and that no live fire had been directed at him during the dispersal of the violent demonstration.