The National Insurance Institute has recognized an Arab resident of East Jerusalem as the victim of “hostile actions” for the first time, and he is now entitled to a monthly disability allowance – after being hit in the eye by a foam-tipped bullet fired by the police. Such recognition is usually reserved for the victims of terrorist attacks.
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Luai Abed, now 37, from the Isawiyah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, was shot in the face with a foam-tipped bullet by police in October 2015. After returning home from a shopping trip, he says, he went out onto his balcony having heard shouts outside when he was hit by a sponge-tipped bullet.
He was seriously injured and lost his eye. In addition he suffered serious injuries to the bones in his nose and eye socket. Abed also suffers from ongoing medical problems as a result.
The police were dealing with disturbances caused by Palestinian youths. The ambulance evacuating Abed was stopped at a checkpoint and the police took down his details, and later came to the hospital in an attempt to question him, but he has never been under investigation or been considered a suspect in participating in the disturbances.
Itay Mack, the attorney who represents Abed, asked the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers to open an investigation into the shooting, and for the police to issue a document recognizing Abed as the victim of “hostile actions.” The investigators closed the case after a short investigation. Mack appealed the Justice Ministry decision but the Jerusalem District police still refused to issue the document.
Mack next applied to the National Insurance Institute with the materials from the police investigation, which showed Abed was shot even though he was not suspected of any involvement in the confrontations. The NII rejected the claim, saying “the disturbances are not hostile acts as meant by law.”
Mack appealed the NII’s decision: “It is clear that if the appellant had been a Jew injured by the security forces when they were preventing disturbances in East Jerusalem, the [NII] would have recognized them as victims of hostile actions. As a result, there is no legal basis for the denial,” wrote Mack.
The NII and State Prosecutor’s Office held a hearing on the appeal and on Tuesday they informed Mack they had decided to recognize Abed as having a 40 percent disability and being a victim of hostile actions. Now Abed will be eligible to receive a monthly disability allowance.
About three years ago, the police began using a new kind of sponge-tipped bullet, colored black, which is heavier, harder and more lethal than the old blue type. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel says the new bullets have so far caused dozens of serious injuries, including the loss of eyes and fractures – usually to minors – and at least one death. Police protocol states that firing the bullet into the upper torso is prohibited and that it is not to be used against children, the elderly or pregnant women.