Israeli forces target children with live ammunition to quash protests

Mar 23, 2015
Palestinian protesters run for cover during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum on December 12.

Ramallah, March 23, 2015—At least 30 children across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, sustained gunshot wounds when Israeli forces used live ammunition to quash protests during the first three months of 2015.

While none of the incidents resulted in death, the live bullets left several children in a critical condition. On March 6, Israeli forces shot Moaaz Mahmoud Ramahy, 15, in the chest while confronting Palestinian youth at the entrance of Jalazun refugee camp, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah. The medical report obtained by Defense for Children International Palestine stated that the bullet caused severe internal bleeding, shattered two rib bones, and damaged his right lung. In the same incident, Israeli soldiers also injured Mohammad Rajae Issa Humidat, 16, in the face with live ammunition. Seven other children from Jalazun refugee camp sustained injuries from live fire since January.

All but one of the injuries documented by DCIP occurred at the hands of Israeli soldiers. The exception took place in East Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhood of Silwan on February 2 when an unprovoked Israeli settler shot Mohammad Burqan, 17, in the right leg.

“The high rate of incidents involving live ammunition against children amounts to a de facto policy that permits Israeli forces to use lethal force on civilians,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, DCIP’s Accountability Program director. “Soldiers operate with the knowledge that their brutal actions will go unchecked whatever the result.”

In December 2014, Israeli news site NRG published a recording of Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai telling Israeli settlers from the West Bank settlement of Halamish that Israeli soldiers adopted a “tougher approach” of using live ammunition against Palestinian protesters. “In places where we used to fire tear-gas or rubber [coated metal bullets], we now fire Ruger bullets and sometimes live bullets,” Yadai said. “We’re at around 25 people hit here in the last three weeks. That’s a relatively high figure on any scale.”

The statement contradicts the Israeli military’s own regulations, which permit the use of live ammunition only when a direct, mortal threat exists. DCIP found no evidence that any of the children injured in 2015 posed such a threat to Israeli troops or settlers.

Over the past 12 weeks, Israeli forces injured 358 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Between March 10 and 16 alone, Israeli forces shot 18 Palestinians, including nine children, with live ammunition, the UN agency reported.

On March 10, sporadic clashes erupted between Israeli forces and residents of Kufr Aqab, an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem cut off from the rest of the city by Israel’s separation barrier and Qalandia checkpoint. At least nine civilians sustained injuries from live fire, including seven children, during protests against demolition notices served by Israeli authorities in order to expand a closed military zone, according to media reports and DCIP research.

In 2014, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinian children with live ammunition in the occupied West Bank. Only one incident resulted in both an investigation and an indictment. Israeli prosecutors brought manslaughter charges against the border police officer allegedly responsible for the death of Nadeem Nawara during May 15 protests commemorating the Palestinian Nakba—or 1948 “catastrophe.”

Since 2000, Israeli security forces have killed over 8,896 Palestinians. At least 1,900 of those have been children, according to DCIP documentation.

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