Ramallah, July 21, 2016—A 10-year-old Palestinian boy died from a sponge-tipped bullet to the chest fired by Israeli forces during a clash with youth in the central West Bank town of Al-Ram on Tuesday evening.
An eyewitness told Defense for Children International – Palestine that a paramilitary border police officer fired a sponge-tipped bullet directly at Muhyee al-Din Tabakhi, which struck him in the chest. According to Reuters, an Israeli police spokesperson said paramilitary border police officers used only tear gas and stun grenades after youth threw a petrol bomb.
Dr. Samir Saliba, director of the emergency department at the Ramallah Medical Complex, said a preliminary examination revealed that a projectile hit the left side of Tabakhi’s chest, causing internal bleeding, and ultimately heart failure.
“Israeli forces have repeatedly disregarded their regulations on the use of sponge-tipped bullets, and other crowd control weapons, without consequence,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Investigations into these incidents remain rare and when carried out almost always end in findings of no wrongdoing.”
Tabakhi was the second child killed by sponge-tipped bullet. Mohammad Sunukrut, a 16-year-old from East Jerusalem died on September 7, 2014, one week after an Israeli border policeman shot the right side of his head with a black sponge-tipped bullet. The bullet caused a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage.
Although Israeli officials initially asserted that Sunukrut was shot on the leg, hitting his head afterward, an autopsy revealed that the sponge-tipped bullet struck his head and was the cause of death.
In May, Israeli internal investigators closed the case without charging the border police officer responsible.
Sponge-tipped bullets are one of several crowd control weapons Israeli police and soldiers use to disperse Palestinian protests. Composed of an aluminum base, plastic body and foam tip, sponge-tipped bullets are “significantly less dangerous than rubber-coated bullets,” but still pose danger when aimed at the upper body, according to a 2013 report by human rights group B’Tselem.
The report also states that an Israeli police procedure restricts their use to the lower body, a distance of 2-50 meters, and circumstances where “less harsh means” of dispersal have first been attempted.
Since October 2015, DCIP has documented 18 upper-body injuries among Palestinian children, including Tabakhi, across the Occupied Palestinian Territory due to Israeli forces’ improper use of crowd control weapons.
Tabakhi’s death raised the number of killed Palestinian children from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip to 26 in 2016, all except four at the hands of Israeli forces. Nineteen of them allegedly carried out knife, gun, or car ramming attacks.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported more than 598 Palestinian children across the Occupied Palestinian Territory have sustained injuries so far this year.