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13-year-old Palestinian loses eye after Israeli forces shoot him with sponge-tipped bullet

July 11, 2017 6:40 P.M. (Updated: July 12, 2017 11:11 A.M.)
Nour Hamdan, 13-year-old Palestinian who lost his eye after Israeli forces shot him with sponge-tipped bullet (Credit: الدهيشة الحدث)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A 13-year-old Palestinian from the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya lost his eye on Sunday after Israeli forces fired a sponge-tipped bullet at the teenager during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the neighborhood.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Israeli police had entered Issawiya after a fight broke out between neighbors. Palestinians began to hurl rocks at Israeli forces, who responded by shooting crowd-control weapons into the community.

According to the injured boy’s family, 13-year-old Nour Hamdan was struck by a sponge-tipped bullet when playing with other children on the second-floor balcony of their home.

The family told Haaretz that when Hamdan’s mother called the children to come inside due to Israeli police presence in the area, Hamdan stood up and was hit in the eye with the bullet.

Hamdan, who the family reportedly said was not involved in any incident of rock-throwing, suffered from fractures in his eye socket and other facial injuries.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), in 2014 Israeli forces began using black sponge-tipped bullets as a crowd control weapon during clashes with Palestinians. The new bullets are “twice as hard and heavy and their potential to cause injury is much greater” than the bullets used previously, according to ACRI.

The group has documented 30 cases of Palestinians being injured with sponge-tipped bullets shot by Israeli forces between July 2014 and February 2016 in occupied East Jerusalem, with at least 12 East Jerusalem residents losing an eye, half of whom were children

In September 2014, Muhammad Sunqrat was killed after being shot by sponge-tipped bullets in the neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz in East Jerusalem, ACRI added.

“These severe injuries indicate that treating the new sponge-tipped bullets as a non-lethal weapon is unreasonable, and that they are not an appropriate means for dispersing demonstrations and riots,” ACRI said.

Israeli military regulations in the occupied Palestinian territory say that Israeli forces may only fire sponge-tipped bullets at the legs, and never at children. Israeli forces are also required to be 50 to 60 meters from their targets.

The dozens of cases in which Palestinians have been injured by sponge-tipped bullets and other “non-lethal weapons” has reflected a “wanton disregard by Israeli forces of the guidelines for using such weapons,”Accountability Program Director of Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) Ayed Abu Eqtaish said in 2015.

“Yet the failure of Israeli authorities to properly investigate and hold perpetrators accountable provides Israeli forces with tacit approval to inflict maximum harm,” he added.

Meanwhile, other crowd-control weapons used by Israeli forces, including tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, have caused serious injuries among Palestinians and dozens of deaths.

In May, 52-year-old Fatima Ubeid from Issawiya was released from an Israeli hospital blinded in one eye, after Israeli forces shot her with a rubber-coated steel bullet during a raid in April.

On Friday, an 18-month-old Palestinian infant died, some two months after suffering from tear gas inhalation when Israeli forces shot tear gas at Palestinian homes in the village of Abud in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.
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