Israeli forces misuse crowd control weapons, injure child's head

May 23, 2017
Six-year-old Hassan Issa, before he was seriously injured by Israeli forces. (Photo: Issa family)

Bethlehem, May 23, 2017—Israeli forces seriously injured a six-year-old Palestinian child, hitting him in the back of the head with a tear gas canister on May 21, near the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Hassan Ahmed Hassan Issa was struck by the canister while walking home from school near Al-Khader village while clashes were taking place in the area. He was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery to stop internal bleeding, according to Defense for Children International - Palestine sources.

“Israeli forces have once again used crowd control weapons in violation of their own military regulations, and in violation of international law,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “The excessive use of ‘less-lethal’ weapons and projectiles in crowded areas where children are present poses serious risks to children, especially very young children,” Abu Eqtaish added.

Local media reported that Hassan appeared to be in stable condition following surgery in a Beit Jala hospital, near Bethlehem. The child is expected to remain under close medical observation until Tuesday.

Between January and May 20, 2017, seven Palestinian children were injured by Israeli forces’ crowd control weapons. Of this number, five sustained injuries to the upper bodies.

Earlier this year, on February 24, an Israeli soldier shot a rubber-coated metal bullet at 10-year-old Mohammad Hilmi Jameel Shtaiwi’s chest, near his neck, in the context of a protest taking place near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya.

Crowd control weapons are only “less lethal” when fired at the lower body, from a distance of 50-60 meters (164-197 feet) and not aimed at children, as stipulated by Israel’s own military regulations.

Israeli forces regularly employ rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters, water cannons, sound grenades, and other “non-fatal riot dispersal methods” to quash protests. Excessive and improper use of crowd control weapons can lead to permanent disability or even death, particularly in children.

Four Palestinian children in the West Bank died between October 2015 and December 2016 as a direct result of Israel’s misuse of crowd control weapons, according to DCIP documentation. The number does not include child fatalities that resulted from live ammunition.

Ahmad Abdullah Sharaka, 14, died in October 2015, after Israeli forces fired a rubber-coated bullet at his head, causing a brain hemorrhage. In July of 2016, 10-year-old Muhyee al-Din Tabakhi died after Israeli border police fired a sponge-tipped bullet at his chest, and Abdel-Rahman al-Dabagh, 15, died in Gaza the following September after his face was struck by a flare during clashes with Israeli forces.

The fourth child, Faris al-Bayed, 15, died in December 2016 from injuries sustained two months prior when Israeli soldiers shot a rubber-coated metal bullet at his head, which entered his skull and lodged in his brain.

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