Is this a rubber bullet?

This is a photo, taken by a field worker for BTselem, of the xray made on Saturday in a Nablus hospital of the bullet lodged in the brain of a Palestinian teenager shot in his village of Iraq Burin, in the West Bank south of Nablus, on Saturday 20 March.  He died just before dawn this morning (Sunday).

BTselem photo of xray of bullet in skull of youth shot in Iraq Burin on 20 March - died 21 March in Nablus hospital

photo (of xray) taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma aDeb’i

Our earlier post on this shooting is here.

BTselem has indicated that it will ask the Army to conduct a criminal investigation. On Saturday, an Israeli military spokesperson said that the commander of the Shomron regional brigade, Itzik Yar, will carry out an internal investigation.

An email sent Sunday morning by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee says that “Ussayed Jamal Abd el-Nasser Qaddous [in the xray, Osaid Abd Kaddous, 19] passed away at 4:30 am this morning despite doctors’ efforts to save his life.  According to eye witnesses Qaddous was shot with live ammunition as soldiers invaded his village after residents demonstrated to protest settler harassment and restrictions of access to their lands.  Mohammed Qaddous, 16, was killed in the same incident yesterday, after soldiers shot him in the chest.  Despite the Israeli military’s claims that live ammunition was not used during the incident yesterday, the version given by numerous civilian eye witnesses of unjust use of live ammunition is corroborated by medical findings.   An xray of Ussayed’s skull taken at the Rafidya hospital in Nublus shows what is clearly a live bullet lodged in his skull. In addition, Mohammed Qaddous’s body had an entry wound in the chest and an exit wound in the back.  Such an injury could not have possibly been cause by anything but live ammunition.  Less-lethal ammunition, rubber-coated bullets included, can, under no circumstances, cause such injuries, even if shot from point blank”.

Ussayed (19) and Mohammed (16) were cousins. Ussayed, a student at an-Najah University in Nablus, was shot first, and Mohammed was trying to carry him to safety when he, too was hit. Mohammed was pronounced dead on Saturday afternoon upon arrival at Rafidiyah hospital in Nablus.

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reported, in their email, that “demonstrators set out yesterday towards the village’s lands after midday prayer, and were immediately confronted by soldiers who shot bursts of live ammunition in the air. The Army then continued to shoot tear-gas and rubber bullets towards the villagers in an attempt to prevent them from reaching their lands. Following the unprovoked attack on the villagers, who were accompanied by 15 international activists, intermittent clashes ensued.  Roughly two hours later, the Army retreated towards the settlement and demonstrators went back to the village. Shortly after, armored military jeeps invaded the village, arrested three people and raided houses. A few minutes later, live shots were fired at a small group of young men, some of which were throwing stones. The shots resulted in one fatality and one critical injury to the head”.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said Sunday that its investigation revealed that Ussayed and Mohammed were not even among the group throwing stones — instead, they were returning to their village in a minivan from Nablus and arrived in the middle of the Israeli military incursion, without prior warning about what was happening. Soldiers were out of their vehicles, PCHR reports, but not far away. When the minivan driver saw burning tires in the street, which was blocked ahead, he stopped: “Mohammed Ibrahim Abdul Qader Qadous, 16, and Usaid [Ussayed] Abdul Naser Qadous, 20, stepped down from the minibus. As the driver turned around to travel back to Nablus, Israeli soldiers opened fire at Mohammed, who was wounded by a bullet to the heart, and Usaid [Ussayed] who was wounded by a bullet to the head. A number of young Palestinians who were in the scene transferred the two wounded persons to the minibus. After the minibus drove for approximately 20 meters, Israeli military jeeps tried to stop it, but the driver managed to escape and reach Nablus Specialized Hospital. Mohammed arrived dead to the hospital, while Usaid [Ussayed] underwent a prolonged surgery, but he was pronounced dead on Sunday morning, 21 March 2010. Usaid [Ussayed] was student at an-Najah National University in Nablus”.

Jonathan Pollack, of Anarchists against the Wall, told Ma’an News Agency that that “It’s very clear this isn’t a rubber bullet … The IDF uses two types of rubber bullets; one is shaped like a ball and the other is cylindrical … The object lodged in Useid’s skull is shaped like a prism, pointed at the end. It’s a bullet.” This report can be read in full here.

Reuters reported that “Hamid al-Masri, a doctor who treated Osaid [Ussayed or Usaid or Useid] Kaddous [Qaddous etc.], presented an X-ray which he said showed a metal bullet lodged in his brain”. This Reuters report is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post’s Defense Correspondent Yaakov Katz reported later that “Judea and Samaria Division commander Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon on Sunday told Israel Radio that while the IDF probe into the deaths of two Palestinian youths in a clash with security forces in the West Bank village of Burin was not yet complete, he was certain that live ammunition was not used. A preliminary IDF investigation suggested that Ussayed Qaddous, 19, and Muhammad Qaddous, 16, were seriously wounded by rubber bullets fired in an effort to disperse a crowd of stone-throwers … According to military procedures, rubber bullets are only used after stun grenades and tear gas fail to disperse a crowd, Alon stressed, adding that the preliminary investigation had ruled out the possibility that soldiers used regular bullets. But Pollak contended that Qaddous was indeed killed by live ammunition. ‘There is an entry wound and an exit wound in his torso, and no rubber bullet in the world can cause such an injury’, Pollak said [see photos below, click on “read more”] … B’tselem made an identical argument. A senior IDF officer on Sunday morning also claimed that the youths would not have been killed if live ammunition had not been used. ‘Rubber bullets are used to prevent serious casualties and fatalities’, the officer told Army Radio, adding that ‘only a violation of procedures would lead to such a deadly outcome’.” This JPost story can be read in full here.

It is very significant that the JPost report got this confirmation from “a senior IDF officer” that it seems live ammunition was used in Iraq Burin.

Though they were apparently not used in this case, rubber bullets, also, can be lethal. The BTselem human rights organization notes on its website that “The Israeli security forces’ arsenal of means to disperse demonstrations in the Occupied Territories includes the use of ‘rubber’ bullets. These bullets are, in fact, steel bullets with thin rubber coats. Their use to disperse demonstrations is based on security officials’ belief that “rubber” bullets are less lethal than live ammunition and that, therefore, they are appropriate for use in situations which are not life-threatening to security forces or other persons. The drafters of the Open-Fire Regulations, however, were aware of the danger inherent in the use of ‘rubber bullets’. The Regulations emphasize that ‘The means for dispersing the riot may cause bodily injury and in certain circumstances also death’. Because rubber-coated steel bullets are intended for use where soldiers or other persons are not in life-threatening situations, the Regulations stipulate several restrictions concerning their use. According to the defense establishment, these provisions prevent the bullet from causing serious or fatal injury. According to these rules, the minimum range for firing ‘rubber’ bullets is forty meters, and use is limited to specially trained personnel. The Regulations emphasize that the bullets must be fired only at the individual’s legs, and that they are not to be fired at children or from a moving vehicle. The permission to fire potentially lethal rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians to disperse ‘violent riots’ or demonstrations has led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. Viewing rubber-coated steel bullets as ‘less lethal’ than live ammunition leads one to possess a light trigger-finger. This phenomenon is only supported by the view of State Attorney’s Office that these deaths are ‘unavoidable mistakes’.” This can be viewed in full on the BTselem website here.

Haaretz reported that “The head of the local village council [in Iraq Burin], Abd al-Rahim Kadus, told Haaretz that every Saturday settlers come to the village, attack the locals and destroy property, leading to clashes with the Palestinians. Israeli troops usually intervene to break up the fighting, which then turns into a confrontation between young villagers and the soldiers. The Palestinians maintain that the two teenagers were hit by live ammunition and that the soldiers prevented Palestinian medical staff from evacuating them”. This Haaretz report is published here.

UPDATE: There are new reports of two more Palestinians shot dead on Sunday, near Nablus.  [This makes a total of four deaths in 24 hours.] Initial reports say the army said the two Palestinians tried to attack soldiers at a checkpoint, or steal their weapons… Ma’an News Agency is reporting that “Palestinian security sources identified the victims as 19-year-old farmers Muhammad Faysal and Salah Muhammad Qawariq. Both were from the Awarta village, southeast of Nablus, and were en route to farmland carrying agricultural tools and herbicide, the same sources said. Israel’s army said the two attempted to stab a soldier who was on a ‘routine patrol’ near the Awarta military checkpoint. ‘In response, forces opened fire and identified a direct hit’, an army spokeswoman told Ma’an … Red Crescent officials told Ma’an that the army informed them that two Palestinians were killed near the illegal Itamar settlement southeast of Nablus, asking them to come and evacuate the victims”. This Ma’an report is posted here.

The IDF spokepersons’ unit said in a statement that “During a routine patrol carried out by IDF forces southeast of Nablus, two Palestinians tried to stab a soldier. The forces opened fire in response, killing both terrorists. No soldiers were hurt and the circumstances of the incident are currently under investigation”.

YNet reported Sunday night — 12 hours after the two 19-year-olds were shot — that “the security establishment is looking into the possibility that one of the Palestinian teenagers who were killed near Nablus earlier in the day planned to attack the soldiers with a syringe containing an unidentified substance. The syringe, which was sent to a lab for tests, was found during a search of his belongings. The two Palestinians were shot as they approached a military checkpoint near the West Bank village of Awarta, southwest of Nablus. The two were said to be disguised [sic] as farmers. At a certain point, witnesses said, they began shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and made threatening gestures towards the soldiers.  Fighters from the Nachshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade shot the Palestinians to death. A military official said the two had the intention and means to harm the soldiers, who acted according to procedures. Palestinian sources in Nablus reported that the two were 19-year-old relatives Muhammad and Salah Kawarik from Awatra. According to the Palestinians, the two were holding agricultural equipment used as part of their work when they were shot to death by IDF soldiers. According to an initial IDF investigation, at some point one of the Palestinian teens pulled out a glass bottle filled with pebbles while the other held a syringe. A pitchfork and other tools were placed on the ground beside them”. This YNet report can be read in full here.

Reuters reported later that Palestinian government spokesperson Ghassan Khatib “called for an independent investigation into the killing of cousins Mohammed Qawariq and Saleh Qawariq on Sunday, citing witness accounts they had been shot only after being arrested“. The Reuters report is here.

The Stop The Wall campaign said in an email report received Sunday night that “Eyewitnesses from the houses overlooking the field the youth were crossing report that an Israeli occupation forces jeep approached the youth and stopped them. Additional military jeeps soon arrived at the spot. The youth were held for around seven minutes before the soldiers shot both youth from close range. Mohammad and Salah both died instantly. Later, a commander of the occupation forces approached the mayor of the village, Hassan Awwad, accusing one of the two youth of having tried to attack the soldiers. The mayor argues that knowing the two youth, given the circumstances and the fact that the two were already detained for some time before they were shot, the explanation of the IOF does not stand up in front of eyewitness testimonies, nor is it logical. He added that the inhabitants of Awarta have suffered for years from the assaults by settlers from Itamar settlement and by Israeli soldiers and thus have been avoiding clashes as much as possible”.

All four Palestinian teenagers were buried on Sunday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has condemned these four deaths as “military escalation”, and called on the international community to intervene. A day earlier, Fayyad was showing UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon around on a “brief” tour of some of the sights of the Israeli occupation — Jewish-only settlements on nearby hilltops, The Wall, and Ofer Prison and Military Courts complex — from a safe vantage point in Ramallah.

About three months ago, in December, three Fatah men were shot dead in Nablus by Israeli forces in pre-dawn raids after an Israeli settler was killed while driving on a road between two nearby Jewish settlements. BTselem demanded a “Military Police investigation into the circumstances of the killings of Ghassan Abu Sharakh, Nader a-Sarkaji, and ‘Anan Subuh in Nablus on 26 December 2009. B’Tselem further demanded that the Military Police investigate the soldiers’ violence against the families of the three men and the damage caused to their property” … BTselem said its own investigation “raises a grave suspicion that the soldiers acted unlawfully and, at least in the cases of Ghassan Abu Sharakh and Nader a-Sarkaji, made no attempt to arrest them before shooting them to death. This, in spite of the fact that the two had obeyed the order to exit their home, and were not carrying arms … B’Tselem says that the three Fatah activists were suspected by Israel of committing a serious offense, and stood to serve long sentences had they been convicted. However, as they were merely suspects, the army’s duty was to arrest them and bring them to trial. Israel denies that it carries out assassinations in the West Bank, yet B’Tselem’s investigation raise a grave suspicion that the soldiers acted as if they were on an assassination mission, not an arrest operation”.

Click below to view BTselem’s photographs of the entry and exit points of the bullet that killed Mohammed Qaddous — evidence, some say, that this was clearly not a rubber bullet. Reuters reported that “Ahmad Hammad, a Nablus doctor, showed a Reuters journalist a photograph of what he said was a bullet entry wound in Mohammed Kaddous’s chest and an exit wound in his back”. It was, moreover, one very precise and accurate shot, fired by an expert marksman, or sniper:

The photos, below, of Mohammed Qaddous’s body, were taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma aDeb’i on Saturday in Nablus.

As the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said in an email: “Mohammed Qaddous’s body had an entry wound in the chest and an exit wound in the back.  Such an injury could not have possibly been cause by anything but live ammunition.  Less-lethal ammunition, rubber-coated bullets included, can, under no circumstances, cause such injuries, even if shot from point blank”…

PCHR says that its investigation has shown that Mohammed Qaddous, the teenage boy killed on Saturday in Iraq Burin, was shot through the heart.

photo by BTselem fieldworker

photos of body taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma aDeb’i

photo taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma aDebi

According to Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, the postmortem photographs show that live ammunition was used. He told Ma’an News Agency that “No rubber bullet in the world would move through a 16-year-old’s torso like that”.

Ma’an added that an Israeli military spokesperson said: “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 … Soldiers responded with riot-dispersal means, which included the use of rubber bullets in accordance with procedures … It should be noted that gas canisters were used prior to rubber bullets”.  This was posted here.

UPDATE: BTSelem’s Sarit Michaeli said later that her organization is calling for a military criminal investigation that will look not just into ‘who shot them and why’, but also into the ‘suspected reporting of false facts by the soldiers who participated in the events’ … On Saturday, the Israeli military said live fire had not been used. Spokeswoman Avital Liebowich told the BBC on Monday that had been the conclusion of an initial investigation, and maintained that the army ‘did not give any orders to use live fire’. She said a ‘debriefing’ was taking place at brigade level regarding the incident … Btselem also wants an investigation into an incident on Sunday, in which two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli security forces in disputed circumstances”. This was reported by the BBC here.

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