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Parallel struggles: West Bank separation wall mural draws attention to 'Palestinian George Floyd'

Spateen painted the murals on the controversial West Bank separation wall [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2020

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Taqi Spateen painted murals on the controversial separation wall, built by Israel to separate Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to commemorate both victims of police brutality and state violence.
Palestinian artist Taqi Spateen has painted a mural of Iyad Hallak, a Palestinian man with autism killed by Israeli forces in Jerusalem, days after he painted one of African American George Floyd who was gunned down by US police in Minneapolis last month.

Spateen painted the murals on the controversial West Bank separation wall, built by Israel to separate Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to commemorate both victims of police brutality and state violence.

Last week, Hallak was shot dead by Israeli forces who mistakenly thought he was armed. The 32-year-old had taken the same route every day, passing by Israeli police to reach his special needs school in Jerusalem's Old City.

Hallak's family has been left searching for answers amid  widespread grief and anger.

Thousands of mourners massed for Hallak's funeral in the West Bank as the trending social media hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter echoed similar fury witnessed at mass protests against police violence and racism in the United States.

Hallak, brown-haired, well-built and with broad shoulders, cut an imposing figure but had the mental age of an eight-year-old, according to his bereaved family.

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A polite man, according to his uncle Oussama, Hallak was an enthusiastic amateur gardener and adored his school. 

Early on Saturday morning in the Wadi el-Joz neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, he sipped tea made by his mother Rana before heading out.

The family home is just a 10-minute walk from the Old City, and until recently Rana had usually accompanied her son to school. 

"I kept a close eye on where he was, we were in touch on WhatsApp," she said, now wearing a black mourning veil, her hands trembling as she spoke.

Police have launched an investigation while the main suspect, a recent recruit, has argued he "thought he was in real danger" according to his lawyer.

Hallak's relatives are demanding to see footage of the killing, well aware that the Old City is covered extensively by CCTV surveillance cameras.

"Each pillar has three cameras. If a mosquito passes, they know that it passed. Why don't they release the images?" asked Hallak's father, tears welling up in his green eyes. 

The images could prove as explosive as those showing the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by police in the US city of Minneapolis, whose death has sparked global protests against racism and police violence.  

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has offered his condolences to the family and pushed for the incident to be "investigated swiftly".

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas labelled the killing a "war crime" while Gaza's governing body, Hamas warned of a new intifada or uprising.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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