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Army explanation 'simply impossible'

March 21, 2010 12:00 P.M. (Updated: March 23, 2010 8:50 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Live ammunition killed two 16-year-old Palestinian boys in the northern West Bank over the weekend, despite the Israeli military's denials, medical officials and human rights advocates said Sunday.

Medics at Nablus' Rafidiya Hospital told Ma'an that Useid Qadus died of a gunshot wound to the head after a military incursion into his village. Muhammad Qadus died of chest wounds sustained in the same incident.

According to eyewitnesses, Qadus was shot with live ammunition as soldiers invaded Iraq Burin, a village south of Nablus, after residents demonstrated to protest settler harassment and restriction of access to their lands.

Israel's military has maintained that its forces used rubber-coated bullets to disperse a violent riot, following a Ma'an inquiry into allegations that both boys sustained injuries consistent with live ammunition.

"Contrary to what was published, live fire was not used. The Palestinians were hurt by rubber bullets used during the incident," an army spokesman said Saturday and reiterated Sunday, citing an initial inquiry.

But medical findings appeared to corroborate testimony by witnesses, a senior Palestinian Authority official, and emergency responders that, regardless of the circumstances, rubber-coated bullets could not have caused the injuries in question.

An X-ray of Useid's head, taken as doctors in Nablus prepared for what would be a futile emergency surgery at Rafidiya Hospital, appears to show a live bullet lodged in his skull rather than the roundish rubber-coated bullets used by the army.

"It's very clear this isn't a rubber bullet," said Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli rights advocate who co-founded Anarchists Against the Wall.

"The IDF uses two types of rubber bullets; one is shaped like a ball and the other is cylindrical," Pollak told Ma'an. "The object lodged in Useid's skull is shaped like a prism, pointed at the end. It's a bullet."

In any case, Pollak said postmortem photographs of Muhammad offered even more damning evidence of the use of live ammunition.

He said the body had an entry wound in the chest and an exit wound in the back. Such an injury could not have been caused by anything but live fire, he said.

"Less lethal ammunition, rubber-coated bullets included, can, under no circumstances, cause such injuries, even if shot from point blank," Pollak said. "No rubber bullet in the world would move through a 16-year-old's torso like that."

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which first obtained the X-ray late Saturday night, concurred.

"Rubber-coated steel bullets will not enter and exit the body in that way. It's very clear these injuries would not have been caused by any kind of crowd-control measure," said B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli.

"The army's explanation is simply impossible and not consistent with the evidence," Michaeli told Ma'an.

B'Tselem plans to issue a formal request that the army's military advocate general conduct a criminal investigation into the incident, both the alleged use of live fire and the apparent distribution of false information to the relevant investigative bodies.

For its part, the Israeli military has vowed to open an internal investigation. The commander of the Shomron regional brigade, Itzik Yar, will head the effort, an army spokesman said.

In the meantime, the military is sticking to its original explanation.

"IDF soldiers arrived at the scene to prevent a clash between the Palestinian rioters and Jewish civilians, and were violently attacked by the the Palestinians, who violently hurled rocks at the force," the spokesman said.

"Soldiers responded with riot-dispersal means, which included the use of rubber bullets in accordance with procedures," he added. "It should be noted that gas canisters were used prior to rubber bullets."
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