Could death of disabled activist mean new Palestinian icon?

The IDF said that the incident is being investigated.

December 16, 2017 09:36
3 minute read.
Could death of disabled activist mean new Palestinian icon?

Ibraheem Abu Thuraya gestures during a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City, December 15, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The death of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, a disabled Palestinian activist, in Gaza on Friday is becoming the latest symbol in Palestinian anger at Israel.

It is also fueling international reactions on social media to the wave of protests and riots that began with the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by US President Donald Trump.

Abu Thuraya, a 29-year-old Palestinian who lost his legs in 2008 during Operation Cast Lead, was reportedly shot and killed during clashes on Friday on Gaza’s border with Israel. The news of his death is being widely shared on social media.
Hundreds attend funerals for Palestinians killed during protests in Gaza over Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, December 16, 2017. (Reuters)

A video by Middle East Eye had been viewed more than 2.5 million times and shared 33,000 times, by Saturday evening.

The IDF said that the incident is being checked.

Nasser Atta, a Jerusalem-based journalist, wrote on Twitter that he has spoken with many Palestinians, and they think the death of the Gaza amputee “will be the beginning of the start of a third intifada – they compare him to Muhammad al-Dura killed during the Second Intifada.”

An Israeli government report published in 2013 concluded that IDF fire did not kill or injure 12-year-old al-Dura, with the incident dubbed “a modern-day blood libel against the State of Israel” by cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz.

Abu Thuraya was known in Gaza for his activism. According to Middle East Eye, “he was known for climbing electricity poles and holding up Palestinian flags during protests.” He called it “resisting despite his disability.”

Palestinian demonstrator Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh is carried during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest near the border fence east of Gaza City, December 15, 2017. (AFP Photo)

Irish Friends of Palestine helped raise money to buy him a mobility scooter in 2012. According to Irish newspaper An Phoblacht, an Irishman in Kilkenny raised money for Abu Thuraya after reading that he had been a deckhand on a Palestinian fishing boat before his injury.

“When he was given his motorized wheelchair it seemed as if every resident of the refugee camp that Ibrahim calls home came out to see him master the controls,” the report recalls. He washed cars for a living and told Shehab News in 2016 he wished he could go abroad to get prosthetic legs.

Video of the disabled activist before his death show him with dozens of Palestinian protesters who set off on Friday toward the Israeli security fence that borders Gaza. He told an interviewer before the clashes that “this land is our land. We are not going to give up. America has to withdraw the declaration it has made.”

The IDF said that hundreds of Palestinians approached the border fence on Friday and threw stones. They were dispersed.

Photos showed Abu Thuraya being pushed on a wheelchair while advancing toward the border with the protesters, some of whom had slingshots and were throwing stones. Tear gas canisters landed around the rioters, and at some point he left his wheelchair behind, crawling through the grass. The footage, after he was shot, shows him being pushed while slumped in his wheelchair and then carried away.

Palestinians said he was shot in the head, and a Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, Ashraf al-Kidra, claimed he was pronounced dead at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital as a result of his wounds.

On Saturday, photos showed his body carried on a stretcher through the streets after his death.

Comments on social media expressed outrage at his death.

He was “murdered” by the IDF, said social media users. He was unarmed, they pointed out, and did not pose a threat.

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