Ramallah, May 11, 2015 – In February 2014, Israeli forces deployed near the Israel-Gaza border fence shot and seriously injured Fadel Abu Odwan, then 11 years old, near his village of Shokat in the southern Gaza Strip. Over one year later, while Fadel survived, the incident has had a devastating impact on his life.
Fadel is no longer the happy and healthy child he was prior to the incident. In April 2015, he spoke to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP) about the incident, and the impact it has had on his life. “I cannot marry or have children in the future,” he says. “My future was destroyed - they took everything from me. This injury has changed my life forever.”
Last year, Fadel told DCIP that Israeli military jeeps approached the Israeli side of the border fence at full speed as he walked to meet his brother near the area, and shot at him as he fled. After being left to bleed for three hours, in full view of Israeli forces, relatives were able to rescue Fadel and take him to hospital.
Fadel sustained injuries to his groin when a live bullet struck him as he ran. At the hospital, doctors placed him in intensive care before transferring him to surgery to extract the bullet lodged in his thigh and remove his testicles. Fadel’s doctor said at the time that the injury “will cause [him] lifelong physical and psychological damage, and will certainly affect his ability to marry and have children.”
Since the incident, Fadel has struggled with a host of health problems resulting from the injury. He suffers from incontinence, problems breathing, and pain when standing for even short periods of time. All this has taken a toll on his mental health.
At school, Fadel is subjected to bullying and name-calling. “Every time they call me names it provokes me,” he said to DCIP. “If they cursed me, or called me a dog or a monkey, I wouldn’t get angry. But when they call me this name [referring to my disability] I lose my mind, I get crazy.” In addition to this, Fadel has recurring nightmares, and frequently wakes up screaming.
In 2014, the use of live ammunition by Israeli soldiers was responsible for the deaths of 11 Palestinian children in the West Bank, according to evidence collected by DCIP. Another 299 Palestinian children sustained gunshot injuries, according to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The number excludes children injured during Israel assault on Gaza last summer. Injuries like Fadel’s inflict lifelong physical and psychological damage, and yet soldiers consistently fire at children with complete impunity.
The Israeli military’s own regulations state that live ammunition must only be used in circumstances where a soldier is in direct, mortal danger. Despite this, DCIP documentation suggests that Israeli soldiers routinely fire live ammunition in breach of regulations. Even in the gravest of cases, where Palestinian children are killed or permanently disabled, perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.
Last year, only one of the 11 cases in which a child was fatally shot resulted in an indictment. The majority of cases are often subject to a brief operational review, which frequently clears the soldiers involved of any wrongdoing. In April, Israel’s State Attorney’s Office found that the 2013 killing of a Palestinian boy, Samir Awad, 16, as he fled from soldiers was merely “reckless and negligent”.
The likelihood that Israeli authorities will bring to justice the soldier responsible for shooting Fadel is nominal. “I want to be like I was before I was injured,”Fadel says. “I want to feel like I have a future. All this is because of the Israeli soldier who shot me. He aimed at the most sensitive part. I wish the same could happen to him. I wish he could feel what I am feeling.”
DCIP works to challenge impunity, and demands an end to the use of live ammunition against Palestinian children. Support the movement here.