Records say paraplegic Palestinian shot during protest
By FARES AKRAM and JOSEF FEDERMAN
Dec. 28, 2017
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian medical records in the Gaza Strip show that a paraplegic man who died during a violent protest along the border with Israel earlier this month was killed by a bullet that struck him in the head.
The records, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, shed new light on a case that has become a rallying cry among Palestinians since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Ibrahim Abu Thraya, who lost his legs in a separate incident several years ago, was killed on Dec. 15 in clashes that broke out along the Israeli border. Palestinians say Abu Thraya was shot deliberately by an Israeli sniper — a claim the military denies.
The medical records, which include a hospital report and a death certificate, say that Abu Thraya, 29, was struck by a bullet above his left eye and died from bleeding in the brain. The same findings were detailed in a report by the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service reviewed by the AP.
The reports did not specify who fired the bullet or what caliber it was.
While the Dec. 15 clash turned violent, with protesters hurling stones, firebombs and burning tires at the border fence, witnesses have said there was no gunfire from the Palestinian side.
The protest came amid a wave of violence that has erupted in the Palestinian territories since Trump's Jerusalem declaration. At least 12 people have died so far, almost all in Gaza.
A picture of the 29-year-old Abu Thraya on a wheelchair, raising the Palestinian flag and flashing a "victory" sign, has become ubiquitous in Gaza. He has emerged as a symbol of resistance to Trump's Jerusalem move, which the Palestinians largely see as siding with Israel.
An Israeli military investigation after the shooting said Abu Thraya had participated in an "extremely violent" protest. The investigation, which the military closed after one day, said that live fire was employed against the main instigators but was not directed at Abu Thraya and that it was impossible to determine the cause of his death.
The investigation cleared troops of any wrongdoing and said it found no "moral or professional failures" in the soldiers' conduct. The military says it has repeatedly requested information about Abu Thraya's injuries through official channels and would examine any information provided.
The AP showed the report from Gaza's Shifa hospital and the death certificate to the army. In a statement, the military noted the report had come from the media and said it "will be studied and examined during the following days."
Alyona Synenko, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the organization has an "ongoing dialogue" with authorities in Israel and Gaza. She said all talks are confidential and that she could not elaborate.
Abu Thraya was a well-known figure in Gaza.
While relatives have claimed Abu Thraya lost his legs in an Israeli airstrike while trying to rescue people, AP records show that he was wounded on April 11, 2008, in a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. AP television footage from that day shows Abu Thraya identifying himself as he is taken away on the back of a pickup truck. He is also seen being taken on a stretcher.
Both militants and civilians were wounded and killed that day, and it is not clear whether Abu Thraya had participated in the violence. Since losing his legs, he often rolled around Gaza City, earning a living by washing cars. He also was a frequent participant in protests along the border with Israel.
Ahmed Yaghi, who was also protesting on Dec. 15, said Abu Thraya and some others stood about 15 meters (yards) from the border fence, facing soldiers behind a mound of sand. He said he saw a soldier assuming a shooting position and then he heard one gunshot.
"I ran closer and saw Ibrahim bleeding from his forehead. He was on the wheelchair. Some youths pushed him on the chair away and then carried him to the ambulance," Yaghi said.
Yaghi said that two days before he was killed, Israeli soldiers across the border fence called on Abu Thraya by name through a loudspeaker, asking him to leave the area. The military enforces a no-go zone next to the fence and warns people against coming too close.
Hamas, which normally praises its fighters killed in battle, has not identified him as a member, nor has any other militant group.
Also Thursday, an Israeli military court extended for five days the detention of a Palestinian teen who has become a national hero after she was filmed kicking and slapping Israeli soldiers.
Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old from the West Bank, was arrested last week by Israeli troops and faces charges of attacking soldiers. Her mother's detention was also extended and a cousin is expected to be released on Sunday.
Tamimi was filmed earlier this month outside her family home shouting, pushing, kicking and slapping Israeli soldiers, who fended off the blows without retaliating. Palestinians are celebrating her as an icon of a new generation of resistance to Israeli occupation, while the soldiers' restraint stirred uproar, with some Israelis saying the army was humiliated.
Federman reported from Jerusalem.