JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Israel Defense Forces is reopening an investigation into the death in Gaza of a paraplegic Palestinian protester.
Ibrahim Abu Thurayya has been a regular presence at protests at Gaza’s border with Israel. Images of him in his wheelchair waving a Palestinian flag have become a symbol of resistance.
Abu Thurayya, 29, was shot in the head while demonstrating in Gaza on Dec. 15 during protests against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Abu Thurayya had said he lost his legs in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in 2008, though video documentation shows that that he was wounded on April 11, 2008, during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian operatives in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
Israel’s military said no live fire was aimed at Abu Thurayya and it was impossible to determine the cause of death. It said its investigation was hindered by the refusal of Palestinian authorities to share details of his injuries.
“It is impossible to determine whether Abu Thurayya was injured as a result of riot dispersal means or what caused his death,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “The initial investigation indicates that no moral or professional failures were identified.”
In announcing the opening of a criminal investigation into Abu Thurayya’s death, the IDF said that it had received new information from groups inside Gaza.
The IDF has said the December 15 demonstration “was extremely violent and included thousands of rioters,” and that both the soldiers and the security fence came under fire by burning tires and rocks thrown by the protesters. The IDF used crowd dispersal weapons such as tear gas and rubber bullets, but acknowledged that some live fire was used with the permission of superior officers.
Eyewitnesses told the London-based Guardian newspaper that Abu Thurayya’s wheelchair was pushed up to the fence, and that he climbed out of it and tried to crawl forward toward the barrier before being hit.