Israel, along with the rest of the world, commemorated International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday, December 3rd, by promising greater integration of the country’s 1.5 million disabled citizens, and holding different activities in parks across the country to show off it’s handicap-accessible pathways and lookout points.
As Monday’s activities came to a close, just across the Green Line in the northern occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem, Israeli forces shot and killed a disabled Palestinian man in the back of his head.
It was around 2am when Israeli forces raided Tulkarem city, near the coffee shop where 22-year-old Muhammad Ihbali worked. He usually left work late, after the young men who frequent the shops finished their card games.
According to an Israeli army spokesperson, Israeli forces were conducting a “search and arrest operation” in the area — a near nightly practice for soldiers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that often provoke confrontations with local Palestinian youth.
The army claimed that when it began firing live fire at youth, they were merely practicing “riot dispersal methods” and “responding to the threat” of Palestinian youth who were throwing rocks at the soldiers
But videos published on social media of that night show Ihbali walking a distance away from the alleged riot, his back turned to soldiers, when he suddenly falls down, face first into the pavement.
His family, who says he had a mental disability, told Middle East Eye that he was shot in his head, and succumbed to his wounds shortly after he arrived to the hospital.
Hundreds of mourners marched through the streets of the Tulkarem Refugee Camp, where Ihbali lived with his family, on Tuesday morning and laid the young man to rest.
He was the 28th Palestinian to have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the start of 2018, according to UN documentation. In Gaza, at least 171 Palestinians have been killed since the Great March of Return began on March 30th.
Ihbali was one of at least five Palestinians with mental or physical disabilities killed by Israel over the past year.
On December 15, 2017, during massive protests in Gaza against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Israeli forces shot a paraplegic Palestinian man in the head, killing him. The wheelchair-ridden man, 29-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thurayya, lost both his legs during Israel’s 2008 offensive on Gaza.
On March 9th, Israeli forces shot and killed 24-year-old Mohammad Zain al-Jabari during clashes in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Reports at the time said he had a mental disability that resulted in a speech impediment. He was survived by his wife and four-year-old child.
On April 21, three weeks after the Great March of Return had began, an Israeli sniper shot and killed 25-year-old Ahmed Nabil Aqel, who was reportedly physically disabled and walked using crutches, along the Gaza border.
On May 15th, another double leg amputee in a wheelchair, 30-year-old Fadi Abu Salah, was killed by Israeli forces along the Gaza border. His legs were severely injured in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2008, forcing doctors to amputate them.
Additionally, Gaza Health Ministry reports have put the number of Palestinians injured by Israel in the Great March of Return in the thousands, at least 68 of whom have had one or both of their legs amputated.
According to UN documentation, over 1,400 Palestinians injured during the Great March of Return “may suffer long-term disability” as a result of Israeli gunfire.
Those that have suffered amputation will face additional challenges, as the Israeli siege on Gaza makes it difficult to import the necessary materials for making prosthetic limbs. Those that are available, are typically too expensive for the average Gazan family, or are too poorly made to even be functional.
In the West Bank, rights groups have even accused Israeli forces of intentionally disabling Palestinian youth in West Bank refugee camps by shooting them in their knees.
Israeli forces have been heavily criticized for what rights groups have referred to as “extrajudicial executions” and excessive use of force against Palestinians — especially youth and children — who did not pose an immediate threat or who could have been disarmed through non-lethal means, particularly during clashes.