Israeli police killed a man with disabilities on Monday after his mother called them asking for help.
The officer who fired the shots has received praise from the Israeli minister responsible for overseeing the police.
Munir Anabtawi, 33, lived in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood of the northern city of Haifa inside Israel.
Police claimed Anabtawi had attacked an officer with a knife, wounding him, and that the police then shot and killed Anabtawi.
His mother, Itaf, said in a video posted on Facebook by local reporter Rashad Omari that she rang the police asking for help because Anabtawi was unwell and causing “problems” – apparently having a crisis that family members could not control alone.
Anabtawi, whose relatives said he had a mental illness, asked his mother for some money, but when she refused to give him more, she said he got agitated.
Itaf said when she usually calls their local healthcare provider, they would direct her to the clinic where her son usually gets treated. She said she called the police to see if they could help her transport him since she herself is ill, and they offered to send an ambulance.
But the police continued to call Itaf and ask for more details, and she says in the video she couldn’t respond properly because of her asthma.
Anabtawi’s mother said that her son picked up a knife and went outside, but said she saw him return it, showing two fruit knives to the camera.
An aunt told Israeli television that Anabtawi “wanted to kill himself with the knife, not the police,” according to the Associated Press.
She added that Anabtawi was shot five times in the upper body. “They have guns. [Why not] shoot him in the leg? Shoot him in the hand.”
The police requested a gag order on the case to prevent media reporting.
Surveillance footage said to show part of the incident circulated on social media. It shows two men in an altercation, one in police uniform.The other, presumably Anabtawi, is holding an object, though it is not clear what it is. Amid the scuffle, the video appears to show the officer draw a gun and fire towards Anabtawi at close range.
The Mossawa Center, a Haifa-based legal advocacy group for Palestinian citizens of Israel, accused the police of leaking the video.
The group said it “condemns the police leaking evidence and videos taken at the scene of the crime, contradicting the police’s own orders.”Mossawa added that police could have used non-lethal means, such as pepper spray or a stun gun, rather than shoot Anabtawi multiple times in the upper body.
Officer gets minister’s “respect”
The center called for the two police officers involved in the incident to be suspended from duties pending a proper investigation. But that seems far from likely.
Israel’s justice ministry reportedly questioned the police involved in the shooting for three hours following the killing, ultimately accepting the officer’s claim he was acting in self-defense.
Underscoring the absence of any real accountability, Israel’s public security minister Amir Ohana called the officer personally on Monday, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“It’s important that every officer knows they will get full backing for any action intended to prevent any harm done to them or to civilians, and not just backing, but also respect,” Ohana said.
The minister added that the officer “did exactly what was expected of him.”
Anabtawi’s killer is reportedly back at work, though will not immediately return to patrol duties.
Palestinians protested the killing of Anabtawi in Haifa on Monday:Last May, private security guards fatally shot a Palestinian citizen of Israel outside Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.
Mustafa Mahmoud Younis, 26, was at the hospital for a psychotherapy session and was undergoing treatment for epilepsy, his father told media at the time.
Palestinian citizens of Israel have protested in recent weeks against Israeli police brutality as well as the state’s failure to address organized crime and internal violence in Palestinian communities in Israel, a phenomenon related to systematic discrimination and neglect.
Targeting people with disabilities
While Anabtawi was a Palestinian citizen of Israel, the state’s violence against Palestinians with disabilities or special needs extends to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as well.
Social media users compared Anabtawi’s slaying to that of Iyad Hallaq, a Palestinian man with autistic traits last May.
Israeli Border Police shot dead Hallaq while he was on his way to his special education school in occupied East Jerusalem.Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq said Hallaq’s killing may amount to a war crime.
Weeks after Hallaq’s killing, Al-Haq and other human rights groups sent a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It documented the “widespread and systematic human rights violations targeting the Palestinian people, including Palestinians with disabilities.”
As of late July 2020, Al-Haq said Israel had killed 14 Palestinians with disabilities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2018.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.