Israeli forces on Friday shot and killed three young Palestinian men, including a double amputee, who were protesting in Gaza and the occupied West Bank against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Al Jazeera reports wheelchair-bound Ibrahim Abu Thurayyah, 29, was shot in the head by an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sniper during a protest along Israel’s border with Gaza. Thurayyah lost both of his legs and a kidney in an Israeli air strike during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians including hundreds of children, were killed and more than 5,000 others wounded.
Witnesses said Thurayyah was carrying a Palestinian flag and a slingshot when he was killed. He was a fixture at demonstrations following Trump’s almost universally condemned plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier this month. Images from earlier on Friday show Thurayyah climbing a light pole to fly a Palestinian flag.
“I am passing a message to the Zionist occupation army,” Thurayyah, referring to the IDF, said in a video two days before his death. “This land is our land. We are not going to give up. America has to withdraw the declaration it made.”
“The Israeli army is cowardly and does not appear to fight except behind the concrete cubes,” he also said in the video. “We only have small stones that reach only 50 meters, and every day I will come crawling on my hands.” It is unknown whether IDF commanders had seen the video message prior to killing Thurayyah.
Fellow demonstrator Nael Abu al-Reesh, 23, told Mondoweiss he was pushing Thurayyah in his wheelchair toward an IDF post when they were attacked. “In a minute we were rained with dozens of gas bombs and everything turned like fog,” he said. “After a few seconds, I found Ibrahim’s forehead bleeding heavily, there was a hole above his left eye, and then I realized that his soul had gone forever.”
Ma’an News reports another Gaza resident, 31-year-old Yassir Sokhar, was shot and killed by Israeli forces during Friday’s protests. In the illegally occupied West Bank, 29-year-old Bassel Mustafa Muhammad Ibrahim died after being shot multiple times by Israeli forces during the demonstrations. The Palestinian Health Ministry also reports 18-year-old Muhammad Amin Aqel al-Adam succumbed to his wounds on Friday evening after he was shot multiple times by Israeli forces in the central West Bank town of al-Bireh after allegedly attempting to stab Israeli soldiers there. There have been more than 100 attacks by knife-wielding Palestinians against Israeli civilians and security forces since 2015.
According to the IDF, more than 6,000 Palestinians took part in Friday’s demonstrations against Trump’s decision throughout the Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. The protesters reportedly burned tires and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF troops and border police officers. Israeli forces returned both “less lethal” and live fire, injuring hundreds of people in addition to the three slain protesters.
The IDF responded to the international outrage over the killing Thurayyah by announcing it would investigate the events surrounding the double amputee’s death, calling the victim a “paraplegic Palestinian rioter” in an email to the Times of Israel. “Warning calls are sounded to the rioters regarding the danger of approaching the security fence, using loudspeakers. The use of live fire is made only when forces identify a significant threat to the lives of the soldiers or to critical security systems,” the army said, adding that it “fired selectively towards main instigators” of the demonstration.
The army blamed the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, the political arm of which rules Gaza, for inciting violence. “These riots are supported by the Hamas terror organization,” it said. “Hamas sends civilians to the security fence and encourages violence against IDF troops. Any attempt to destroy the fence and cross it is considered a violation of Israeli sovereignty.”
However, Palestinians said it was Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem — the eastern part of which they consider the capital of a future independent Palestinian state — as Israel’s capital that sparked violence, along with the ongoing 50-year illegal occupation by Israeli forces of Palestinian territory.
Thurayyah’s relatives accused Israel of murder. “Ibrahim came here only to express his anger at Trump’s declaration, so he was the victim of murder,” the slain protester’s older brother, Sameer Abu Thurayyah, told Mondoweiss. Sameer said his brother knew he might soon be killed, telling his family, “mom, bro… please forgive me for any mistake I have ever did, I have lost my legs for my country and I think that is not enough, I must sacrifice my whole body for the sacrifice of the homeland.”