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Israeli investigation into Iyad al-Halak killing hampered by lack of footage: Report

Israel's Justice Ministry says there is no video evidence of the autistic Palestinian man's fatal shooting
A mural depicting Iyad al-Halak, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli police, on a section of Israel's separation barrier in Bethlehem (AFP)

An investigation into the fatal shooting of an autistic Palestinian man by Israeli police in May is being hampered by an apparent lack of any video evidence into the killing, according to a report by Haaretz published on Tuesday.

This is despite reporters for the Israeli news outlet finding at least 10 cameras in the vicinity of where 32-year-old Iyad al-Halak was chased by Israeli border police officers in occupied East Jerusalem's Old City on 30 May.

The fatal shooting of Halak in a garbage room in the Old City provoked an outcry in Palestine, Israel and abroad and sparked numerous demonstrations, despite the country being locked down over the coronavirus outbreak.

Israeli police claimed at the time that the officers thought Halak was carrying a weapon.

A unit in the Israeli Justice Ministry has been investigating the incident, and is expected to submit evidence to a prosecutor soon.

According a source familiar with the investigation speaking to Haaretz, security cameras in the area did not document the killing.

The source said the Justice Ministry unit had only questioned the main suspect once - for five hours on the day of the shooting - while his commanding officer had been questioned twice.

Haaretz reported that between the Old City's Lions' Gate - where the chase began - and the garbage room where Halak was killed, a distance of around 150 metres, they found at least 10 cameras.

International parallels

Palestinians have drawn comparisons between the Palestinian man's fatal encounter with police and the death in the United States of African-American George Floyd after a police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee into his neck while detaining him on 25 May, a few days before Halak's own death at the hand of police forces.

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Hundreds of people attended Halak's funeral.

Palestinian officials and Halak's family said he was diagnosed with severe autism and panicked and ran after the officers confronted him.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the killing as a "tragedy", but stopped short of an apology.

"What happened to Iyad al-Halak is a tragedy. This was a man with disabilities, autism, who was suspected - and we (now) know wrongly - of being a terrorist in a very sensitive venue," Netanyahu said in comments to his cabinet on 7 June.

"I know that (police) are conducting examinations. We all share in the grief of the family."

Palestinians have long accused Israel of carrying out superficial investigations into crimes committed by Israeli forces or settlers against Palestinians. Israelis are very rarely tried for killing Palestinians, and if found guilty, typically receive lenient sentences.