Sponge-Tipped Bullets Cause Serious Injuries to East Jerusalem Children, says Child-Rights Group

RAMALLAH, October 1, 2015 (WAFA) – Misuse of sponge-tipped plastic bullets by Israeli border police during clashes with Palestinian youth resulted in serious injuries to three children, none of whom participated in the confrontations, from East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood in September, saidDefense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).

On September 19, Mohammad Issa, 15, suffered a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage when a black, sponge-tipped bullet hit him in the head. His mother told DCIP that they were on their way to a pharmacy in Issawiya at the time. Mohammad spent nine days in hospital and doctors said he would require physiotherapy to regain lost movement in his left arm from the brain injury.

Aseel Muheisen, 12, told DCIP that on September 15, a black, sponge-tipped bullet struck her as she stood observing clashes from her family-owned small amusement park that overlooks the Issawiya neighborhood. Doctors said Aseel had a broken right collarbone and pulmonary contusions, which required her to stay five days in hospital for treatment.

On September 8, Yousef Dari, 10, told DCIP that he found himself caught in the middle of confrontations between masked Palestinian youth and Israeli border police officers when he left the bakery near his home in Issawiya. Israeli border police officers shot him with a black, sponge-tipped bullet in the back as he ran home. Yousef suffered a lacerated spleen that kept him in hospital for a week and confined him to bed rest for at least a month.

“Sponge rounds, like all non-lethal crowd control weapons, can seriously injure, and even kill, Palestinian children when fired above the waist at unsafe distances,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP.

He said that, “These cases show a wanton disregard by Israeli forces of the guidelines for using such weapons. Yet the failure of Israeli authorities to properly investigate and hold perpetrators accountable provides Israeli forces with tacit approval to inflict maximum harm.”

In March, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) sent a letter to Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, demanding that Israel’s police “immediately cease using the black sponge bullets and conduct an extensive investigation.”

In response, ACRI received the guidelines for firing these plastic bullets, which prohibits their use on children and requires police officers to fire them at the lower part of the body. Nevertheless, over the past 12 months, one child died and at least three others sustained serious injuries in Jerusalem from plastic bullets, according to DCIP research and media reports.

Last year, DCIP called on Israeli authorities to end the use of supposedly non-lethal weapons, which Israeli forces excessively and improperly use, with almost complete impunity. The incorrect use of such weapons can have devastating and sometimes fatal consequences for children.

An estimated 1,522 Palestinian children sustained injuries by weapons other than live ammunition between January 2011 and December 2013, according to data collected by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

A January 2013 report by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, found that 12 children died from rubber-coated metal bullets between 2000 and 2012.