Israeli investigators: No footage of shooting of Palestinian
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s Justice Ministry on Tuesday announced there is no footage of the shooting of an autistic Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli police, saying that security cameras in the closely monitored area were not operating properly at the time.
The admission drew deep skepticism from the family and human rights workers. It raised concerns about the credibility of the investigation due to the large number of security cameras in Jerusalem’s volatile Old City.
Eyad Hallaq, who was 32, was fatally shot just inside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate on May 30 as he was on his way to the special-needs institution that he attended. The area is a frequent site of clashes between local Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and the Old City’s narrow streets are lined with hundreds of security cameras that are monitored by police.
In a statement, the Justice Ministry said internal affairs investigators had checked all of the cameras in the area after the shooting.
“At this stage of the investigation we can relay that the shooting incident was not documented on them,” it said. “Also in the garbage room where the deadly shooting took place, there were security cameras but those cameras were not connected at the relevant time and didn’t document the shooting.”
According to accounts at the time, two members of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police chased Hallaq into a nook and shot him as he cowered next to a garbage bin.
At the time, Israeli police said they believed he was carrying a “suspicious object” and said they opened fire when he failed to heed calls to stop. His teacher, who was with him, told an Israeli TV station that she had repeatedly called out to police that he was “disabled.”
The ministry said Hallaq, who was unarmed, had been mistakenly identified as an attacker and called the incident “tragic.”
It said that despite the lack of footage, investigators had interviewed a number of witnesses as well as the officers involved in the incident. It said the investigation was in its final stages.
It said it delivered the update to Hallaq’s parents at a meeting on Monday. “Representatives of the internal investigations department expressed their condolences to the family and requested to shake the hands of the parents,” it said.
The family angrily announced Monday that it had been told there was no footage.
In an interview, the family’s lawyer, Jad Qadamani, said he found the claim that the cameras did not work unacceptable and unbelievable.
“We look with great suspicion on this matter and demand the immediate opening of an investigation,” he said.
In cases of attacks against Israeli security forces, police often quickly release security-camera footage to the public.
The shooting of Hallaq drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the U.S. and prompted a series of small demonstrations against police violence. The uproar crossed Israeli-Palestinian lines and drew Jewish protesters as well, and Israeli leaders expressed regret over the shooting.
But since then, the family has complained about the slow pace of the investigation and said it fears the killing will be whitewashed.
Human rights groups say Israel has a poor record of prosecuting cases of police violence against Palestinians.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has monitored the case, called Tuesday’s announcement “incredibly disturbing” and said it raised doubts about the investigation.
Noting that the shooting took place “in the most documented and watched site” in the country, it called on investigators to “make every effort to find relevant footage and attempt to restore the public trust in the police and their internal investigations system.”