The story of a Palestinian boy who lost an eye after being shot in the face by Israeli police has angered Palestinians across the occupied territories who see the incident as another tragic example of Israel’s wrongful targeting of Palestinians with excessive force.
Eight-year-old Malek Issa was on his way home from buying a sandwich on Saturday afternoon in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya when he was shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet fired by an Israeli police officer.
Issa’s family told local media that the boy had left a restaurant and was headed home when he was shot by police, allegedly at point blank range.
While Israeli police claimed that their officers were engaging in “riot control” measures in Issawiya, video footage of the moments before the shooting, published by Haaretz, shows what appears to be normal activity in the street.
Amid a number of unassuming pedestrians and vehicles, a child in a blue hoodie, purportedly Issa, can be seen dashing across the street and disappearing around the corner, out of sight of the camera.
Moments later, all the pedestrians in view of the camera suddenly duck their heads, seemingly in response to the gunshots, and beginning running. A group of young men are then seen rushing out from the side street where Issa had entered, carrying his flailing body into a civilian car to be taken to the hospital.
By Tuesday, the family of Issa reported that his condition had stabilized, but that he had lost sight in his left eye, and would be needing surgery likely to remove his eye and to stop internal bleeding.
In a video published by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, a Palestinian NGO in the neighboring town of Silwan, Issa’s father Wael says his son “escaped death” and that there was likely no brain damage — something the family feared would happen due to the severity of his injuries.
#العيسوية #اصابة الوالد: " اصابة مالك كانت قاتلة… نجا من الموت.. لكنه فقد بصره في العين اليسرى "آخر تطورات الحالة الصحية للطفل مالك عيسى 8سنوات والذي اصيب السبت بعيار مطاطي وهو في طريقه الى منزله عائدا من مدرسته .. برفقة شقيقاته حاملا حقيبته المدرسية وبعض السكاكر!! #تفاصيل#Issawiya#InjuryThe child's father: "Malek's injury was fatal … He survived … but he lost his sight in the left eye."The latest development of the health condition of the boy, Malek Issa, 8 years old, who was wounded with a rubber bullet on his way home from school .. accompanied by his sisters, carrying his school bag and some candy !! #details
Posted by Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan مركز معلومات وادي حلوه -سلوان on Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Wael added that there was fear that if doctors could not control the internal bleeding, the inflammation from Malek’s left eye could spread to his right eye.
No stone throwing or ‘rioting’ preceded shot
Israeli police told the media that the officer in question claimed to have fired his weapon at a wall for “calibration” purposes, and that he thought Issa was hit by an alleged Palestinian stone-thrower.
In a report, Haaretz quoted eyewitnesses who said Israeli policemen were just “standing there” in the neighborhood, and that no stone throwing or “rioting” was happening.
The witnesses said that the officer was knowingly aimed at the boy and fired directly at him. One witness, a local bus driver, said that when he confronted the officer over what he had done, “he told me to move on,” while his fellow officers threatened to beat the bus driver up.
According to Haaretz, the Justice Ministry’s unit for investigating police officers took statement from eyewitnesses, but was not yet undertaking an official investigation, but rather a “probe” into the incident.
As of Wednesday, the policeman in question had not yet been summoned by the ministry to give an official statement on the matter.
It remained unclear if the officer was still on active duty following the shooting.
An all too common occurrence
The shooting of Issa struck a chord with Palestinians across the occupied territory due to the chilling familiarity of the incident.
Stories like Issa’s are not uncommon: a 10-year-old boy suffered severe brain damage after being shot in the head with live ammunition in Kafr Qaddum last fall; a 14-year-old boy lost his leg after being shot while playing soccer with his friends last spring; a 15-year-old boy lost a portion of his skull after being shot in the head in 2018.
In each of the cases listed above, the Palestinian boys who were injured were reportedly engaged in mundane activities, like Issa, and were still targeted by Israeli forces. Additionally, in each case, no wrongdoing was found on part of the soldiers or officers responsible.
Palestinians and human rights groups have long criticized Israel for its excessive use of force against Palestinians and the lack of accountability for the Israeli soldiers who commit such crimes.
In East Jerusalem, residents complain of over policing of their neighborhoods by Israeli police, unnecessary stops and searches of minors and young men, and frequent raids and arrests.
Over the past year, Issawiya has been subject to an increased Israeli police presence, daily raids, including on schools, and the forceful arrest of residents.
In June, a 21-year-old youth from the town was shot dead during protests. Rights groups later said that he posed no direct threat to soldiers at the time.
Locals alleged that the number of arrests in the last half of 2019 is as high as 600, with child arrests in Issawiya making up 41 per cent of all child detentions recorded in East Jerusalem.