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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military said Sunday it has opened an investigation into the fatal shooting of a paraplegic Palestinian man who was shot in the head during a violent demonstration in the Gaza Strip last week.
Ibrahim Abu Thraya, 29, was shot while demonstrating along Gaza's border with Israel, Palestinian health officials said, during days of unrest sparked by President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital earlier this month. Abu Thraya is being hailed as a hero and his death has emerged as a rallying cry among Palestinians against Trump's dramatic declaration, which they largely saw as siding with Israel.
"We were telling him not to go (to the border), but he would not listen to us. He said 'this is Jerusalem; if I don't go to defend it, who will?'" said Raed al-Komi, Abu Thraya's half-brother.
Following Trump's decision, the Palestinians called for three "days of rage" in which thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem turned out to protest. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, called for a third Palestinian uprising. Violence broke out in several flashpoints and erupted again on Friday, including along the Gaza border fence, where Abu Thraya was killed.
The Israeli military said thousands of protesters were rolling burning tires and throwing stones at soldiers in separate locations along the fence. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, blamed Hamas for instigating violent demonstrations that posed a "significant threat" to soldiers and justified the use of live fire.
Still, he said "allegations of the killing of a paraplegic Palestinian rioter are under investigation." The probe is expected to take several days, Conricus said.
Hundreds of neighbors, friends and officials, including Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, have visited a mourning tent erected for Abu Thraya in Gaza's al-Shati refugee camp, which was adorned with photos of him in a wheelchair hoisting up the Palestinian flag and flashing a "victory" sign. In a reflection of how his death has been embraced by a swath of Gazan society, posters from the many Palestinian political factions and diverse community organizations lined the tent's sides.
Abu Thraya lost his legs in an Israeli airstrike during a 2008 war between Israel and Hamas. Al-Komi said he was assisting in the evacuation of people hit in a separate strike when the second airstrike occurred. He had since used a wheelchair.
Abu Thraya, a fisherman before his injury, participated in several border demonstrations following Trump's announcement. As other demonstrators ran away from tear gas fired by Israeli troops, Abu Thraya wheeled himself closer to the frontier, according to Ahmed Yaghi, a protester.
Jerusalem's status has been a central issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump's announcement upended decades of U.S. foreign policy and countered an international consensus that Jerusalem's status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. It drew widespread criticism from U.S. allies in the Arab and Muslim world, as well as in Europe and beyond.
Also Sunday, the military said two projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel. Since Trump's announcement, there has been an uptick in rocket launches from Gaza.
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