Another Palestinian Loses Eye to Police Sponge Bullet

The use by police of a new, supposedly non-lethal, weapon has resulted in a string of serious eye injuries among youths and children in the Jerusalem area.

Emil Salman

A Palestinian youth has lost an eye, apparently as a result of being shot at with a sponge bullet.

It is the latest of a series of similar incidents in which Palestinian youths and children, primarily in East Jerusalem, have lost eyes to sponge bullets fired by the Israeli security services.

Sliman al-Tardi, 20, a resident of the West Bank living in Issawiya, was injured on Wednesday night when he went out to buy cigarettes, according to his own account. Palestinian youths were clashing with Israeli police in the area at the time.

Tardi was operated on at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem on Thursday, but the doctors were unable to save his eye.

Less than two weeks ago, Zakariya Julani, a 13-year-old boy from the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, also lost an eye in similar circumstances.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has made representations to the authorities in recent months over the use of a new type of black sponge bullet which causes serious injuries.

Tardi is currently in detention. On Thursday, a Jerusalem judge extended his remand until Sunday, due to police suspicions that he had participated in a violent demonstration.

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.

The bullets are made of plastic and are 40 millimeters in diameter, with a sponge tip that is intended to reduce injuries.

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.