Israel claims its troops didn't kill paraplegic Palestinian

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2017 file photo, Palestinian mourners carry the body of 29-year-old activist Ibrahim Abu Thraya, who was shot and killed during clashes with Israeli forces on the border with Gaza, during his funeral in Gaza City. The Israeli army has closed a criminal investigation into the death of the paraplegic Palestinian man shot while demonstrating along Gaza's border with Israel in 2017, saying Friday, May 17, 2019, the probe found "no evidence" that its soldiers fired the fatal bullet. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli army on Friday closed a criminal investigation into the death of a paraplegic Palestinian man shot while demonstrating along Gaza's border with Israel in 2017, saying the probe found "no evidence" that its soldiers fired the fatal bullet.

The army described the protest in which 29-year-old Ibrahim Abu Thraya was killed as a "violent riot," and said troops responded by opening fire toward the lower body parts of "main instigators."

As part of its investigation, the military said it tried to obtain the bullet that killed Abu Thraya, but Palestinian authorities denied its request.

Witnesses at the time said no gunfire came from the Palestinian side. Palestinians and human rights groups claimed he was shot by an Israeli sniper.

Abu Thraya, hailed as a symbol of heroism by Palestinians for persistently raising a Palestinian flag from his wheelchair at demonstrations, died of bleeding in his brain after a bullet struck his head, according to medical records obtained by The Associated Press. He was killed at a rally protesting President Donald Trump's decision to recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Human rights groups have long criticized Israeli military investigations, saying they rarely result in punishments and alleging they're designed to whitewash abuses by troops.