Going for the jugular: Israeli forces are misusing crowd control weapons

Mar 12, 2016
Mamdouh Mahyoub Sorour, 16, receiving medical care for a head wound from a rubber-coated metal bullet.

Ramallah, March 12, 2016—Israeli forces shot 16-year-old Mamdouh Mahyoub Sorour with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the back of his head, resulting in a brain hemorrhage, during a protest in the West Bank village of Nilin on February 12.

An ambulance transferred Mamdouh to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah. A preliminary medical examination found that a rubber-coated metal bullet caused a skull fracture, which led to a brain hemorrhage. After a two-hour surgery and nearly a week in intensive care, Mamduh is in a stable condition. His father told Defense for Children International - Palestine that since returning home, Mamduh is fatigued, stressed, and prefers to be alone.

“The improper use of crowd control weapons against children must end immediately,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Israeli soldiers who aim crowd control weapons at children’s heads and upper bodies at close range must be held accountable for their actions.”

Mamdouh is one of eight children, documented by DCIP, who have sustained injuries in the upper part of the body from Israeli forces’ misuse of crowd control weapons since a wave of violence erupted last October. All eight of these injuries were to the head and neck. Of this number, two children lost sight in one of their eyes as a result of their injuries.

On November 5, Israeli soldiers shot M.Y., 16, with a rubber-coated metal bullet during clashes near the Palestine Technical University in Tulkarem. Israeli soldiers were firing at the protesters from a distance of approximately 150 meters (492 feet) when a rubber-coated metal bullet struck M.Y. in his left eye, according to his sworn testimony.

M.Y.’s injury was treated at Thabet Ibn Thabet Hospital and later on, at the Arab Specialist Hospital in Nablus. After five hours of medical care, doctors informed M.Y. that the bullet had irrevocably damaged his eye, and they had no choice but to remove it.

Across the West Bank, Israeli forces employ rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters, water cannons, sound grenades, and other ‘non-fatal riot dispersal methods’ to quash protests. While Israeli military regulations restrict the parameters and manner of their use, the excessive and improper use of crowd control weapons can lead to permanent disability or even death, particularly in children.

In a 2013 report, human rights group B’Tselem noted that the Israeli military’s regulations clearly state that rubber-coated metal bullets “may not be fired at women or children.”

The regulations also require that rubber-coated metal bullets only be fired at the legs, not upper bodies, of “inciters, key disrupters of order or individuals endangering the well-being of a soldier or another individual.” Military regulations further stipulate that a soldier must be at least 50-60 meters (165-195 feet) away from their target when he or she shoots rubber-coated metal bullets.

Despite these rules, Israeli forces shot rubber-coated metal bullets at 13-year-old W.K. from a distance of approximately two meters (7 feet) last October during a military raid on the village of Hizma, north of Jerusalem, according to his sworn testimony. W.K. sustained injuries to his face and left shoulder. He underwent two operations in which doctors replaced the fractured bones in his eye socket with platinum.

Since unrest broke out in October 2015, Palestinian children are frequently coming into direct contact with Israeli forces due to their intensified military presence in the West Bank. A further seven children in the West Bank have been injured in the upper part of their bodies by live ammunition during protests in the same period.

DCIP found that none of the seven children posed a clear, direct mortal threat to a soldier’s life at the time they were shot with live ammunition.

At least 2,177 Palestinian children from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, sustained injuries between October 2015 and January 2016, according to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA).

Forty-three Palestinian children from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip have been killed since October as a direct result of intensified violence, all except two at the hands of Israeli forces.

Of this number, Israeli forces shot and killed four children during clashes in the West Bank. Three of these children’s deaths were the result of the use of live ammunition. The fourth child, Ahmad Sharaka, died of his wounds after a rubber-coated metal bullet struck him behind the left ear.

In response to escalating violence, Israeli forces appear to be implementing a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy, which in some incidents may amount to extrajudicial killings. International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable.

A further 136 Palestinian adults have been shot dead since October, according to media reports. Palestinian attackers have killed at least 28 Israelis during the same period.


News | Fatalities and Injuries
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