Zakariya Julani, a 13-year-old boy from the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, lost his eye – apparently from a sponge-tipped rubber bullet fired last Tuesday by a female Border Police officer. Julani’s family and friends said there were no disturbances or rock throwing in the area before the firing.
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Researchers from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel raised the possibility that Julani was hit by a black sponge bullet of the type introduced into regular use over the past year by Jerusalem police, and is harder and considered more dangerous that the previously used blue sponge bullet.
Yahya Julani, Zakariya’s father, said his son was on the way home from school when he passed a building near the entrance to Shuafat refugee camp. The area is known for frequent disturbances and confrontations between Palestinian youths and police, but the elder Julani said there were no such incidents at the time. A friend of the boy said a female Border Police officer fired at them from the building’s fourth floor.
The younger Julani was wounded in the left eye and taken to Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem in Jerusalem, where he was hospitalized and lost his eye.
The police have been gradually introducing the black sponge-tipped bullets, also known as Model 4557, for about a year, as Haaretz reported last September. The new riot-control bullets are heavier and cause more serious bodily harm than the blue ones police had used previously. Police are thought to have used black sponge-tipped bullets when they fatally shot Mohammed Sunuqrut of Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood in the head in late August. The bullets are made of plastic and are 40 millimeters in diameter, with a sponge tip that is intended to reduce injuries.
Jerusalem police said: “Work has been carried out recently to construct an additional lane at the [Shuafat] checkpoint and a parking lot. Serious disturbances have broken out a number of times around the construction work. On the day Julani was injured, too, there were disturbances at the site and riot dispersal means were used. The father came with the boy to the checkpoint, and originally claimed he fell. The boy was evacuated to the hospital. If necessary, the matter will be transferred to the [Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers].”