Israel Defends Policeman Who Shot Palestinian Couple Through Their Window

Nadia and Mazen Abu Humus, who were shot in their East Jerusalem home in 2015, sued the state for $28,000. The state told the court the policeman's conduct was 'proportionate and reasonable'

FILE PHOTO: Israeli forces on the outskirts of Isawiyah, East Jerusalem.
Orel Cohen

A policeman who shot and wounded two Palestinians while they were standing in their own home behind a closed window acted properly, the state told a court this week.

The incident occurred in November 2015. Mazen and Nadia Abu Humus subsequently sued the state for 100,000 shekels ($28,000). In the defense brief it submitted this week, the state termed the policeman’s conduct “proportionate and reasonable.”

On November 1, 2015, municipal inspectors backed by a large group of policemen entered the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah to collect debts. The police later said riots had erupted and people threw stones at them, but the plaintiffs said the street where they live remained quiet.

Mazen Abu Humus in 2015.

Nadia and Mazen Abu Humus were watching from a first-floor window, which Nadia asked Mazen to close. Sometime after he did so, a black, sponge-tipped bullet shattered the window and hit him in the face. Fragments of glass hit Nadia in the face and inflicted deep cuts in her eye, which needed stitches.

“There were no stones, there weren’t even any children in the street,” Mazen Abu Humus said. “They saw me at the window and gave it to me.”

The state’s brief, which noted that the policeman was put on disciplinary trial and acquitted, offered a slightly different description of events.

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The policeman, identified only as Ganot, “shouted at the female plaintiff and even signaled her with his hands to close the window and move away from it,” the brief said. “The female plaintiff moved a little away from the window for a moment, but immediately returned and began to open the window, while looking in a suspicious manner at the police force below her. The policeman once again shouted at the female plaintiff and asked her to move away.”

Ganot then raised his rifle and pointed it at her, at which point she did move away and close the window, the brief continued. But when he “saw the female plaintiff returning to the window, he felt there was a clear and present danger that the female plaintiff planned to harm the police force below her, and in response he fired a single sponge-tipped bullet at the left side of the window to deter the female plaintiff without harming her directly.”

In light of her “suspicious behavior,” the policeman exercised reasonable judgement, the state added.

The suit, filed by attorney Eitay Mack, denied that the plaintiffs’ behavior had anything to do with their getting shot.

“It’s impossible to think of any logical reason why policemen should shoot at a closed window despite knowing that the couple was standing behind it,” according to the suit. “One of the policemen shouted at the plaintiffs to close the window, and they did. Immediately after they closed the window, and with no justification whatsoever, one of the policemen shot a black sponge-tipped bullet at the window.

“The bullet went through the screen and shattered the glass,” the suit continued. “As a result, many shards of glass penetrated the plaintiffs’ faces, and both of them were full of blood.”

At the time of the shooting, the suit continued, “There were no disturbances in the street.”

Mack stressed that according to police regulations, sponge-tipped bullets are only supposed to be fired at people’s legs.

“This shooting at a closed window, even though the policeman knew there were people behind it, and the excuses for it in the defense brief, are embarrassing, and illustrate the severe problem of racism in the police and the Border Police,” he said, charging that for some policemen and officers, “any non-Jewish resident of East Jerusalem is a potential enemy, and therefore, also a potential target.”

In 2014, the police replaced their blue sponge-tipped bullets with black ones that are heavier and more dangerous. Since then, dozens of Jerusalem residents have been wounded by sponge-tipped bullets, some of them seriously.

In one case, a young man was even killed by such a bullet. Another person suffered serious brain damage, and two had ruptured spleens and livers. More than 10 people, including children, have lost an eye, while others suffered fractures in their faces, hands or legs.

Though some of these incidents raise suspicions that police violated regulations, to date not a single indictment has been filed against a policeman for shooting sponge-tipped bullets.