Seven Israeli Officers Under Investigation for Shooting Palestinian Teen in the Back

Israel's police commissioner orders the suspension of the officer who shot 16-year-old Jana Kiswani in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet, after new footage of the incident emerged

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Shooting of 16-year-old Palestinian in Sheikh Jarrah
Shooting of 16-year-old Palestinian in Sheikh Jarrah

The Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit opened an investigation into seven officers involved in the shooting of a teenage girl with a sponge-tipped bullet during a recent crackdown on unrest in Sheikh Jarrah last week, the police said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that 16-year-old Jana Kiswani was shot in the back by one of the officers as she reentered her family’s courtyard upon police order to return inside. Seconds later, after the gate was closed, the police fired another bullet that hit her father Mohammed in the leg, and also threw a stun grenade through the bars of the gate, which fell right near the wounded father and daughter.

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Jana was evacuated to a hospital, where she was found to have a spinal fracture and possible damage to a kidney. Doctors say she will need lengthy rehabilitation.

Jana Kiswani, center, talks to her father, Mohammed, today, as she recovers in her family home after being hit by a sponge-tipped bullet last week Credit: Maya Alleruzzo / AP

Following the report in Haaretz on Tuesday, the police commissioner ordered that the police officer who shot Jana will be suspended. Multiple complaints alleging violence against protesters have previously been filed against the officer.

Warning: This video contains graphic content of 16-year-old girl shot during Sheikh Jarrah unrest

Jana's father, Mohammed, who sustained a leg injury in the shooting, testified on Wednesday at the police misconduct unit and was asked about the circumstances of the incident. Investigators later arrived at the family’s home and also questioned Jana who is confined to her bed.

The videos that emerged this week documenting the shooting show that the police officer who fired at Jana violated almost every clause in the rule of engagement: he shot at an unarmed minor, did so at short range, and hit her in the upper body without aiming his weapon before shooting. 

As reported in Haaretz, this incident in Sheikh Jarrah is just one of dozens of incidents in the past month in which excessive force has been used against Palestinians who have not used violence. Many of the incidents took place at the direction of Chief Supt. Ronen Hazut, commander of the special forces unit of the Jerusalem police district. Hazut was a key figure in dictating the police conduct in East Jerusalem during the clashes this month.

Testimonies and videos collected by Haaretz show that Hazut instructed his police officers to use force even in the absence of visible justification. Mohammed Kiswani told Haaretz that he had heard Hazut tell the police officers to shoot at anyone who comes out into the street. In a video that documents the force’s arrival, Hazut is heard telling one of the police officers, “Give it to them, give it to them there, also whoever is standing there.” 

According to the residents, during the ensuing two hours the police officers marched up and down the street, firing sponge-tipped bullets and throwing stun grenades at Palestinians who were standing or sitting along the street.

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