Israel to Compensate Palestinian Shepherd Injured in West Bank Military Firing Zone

Hussein Rafaiqa was 15 years old when he lost four fingers after picking up an unexploded grenade in an area court ruled wasn't cleared properly by the army

A Palestinian man waters goats and sheep in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 21, 2019. Picture taken August 21, 2019.
REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

Israel will compensate a Palestinian shepherd who was injured by an undetonated grenade in a military firing zone in the West Bank in 2012. The plaintiff Hussein Rafaiqa, from the Jaheleen Bedouin tribe east of Jerusalem, was 15-years-old when he lost four of his fingers after picking up the grenade while herding his sheep.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that the state was negligent and ordered the defense ministry to pay Rafaiqa 304,000 shekels ($87,000). The judge accepted testimonies that claimed that the area in which Rafaiqa was injured is marked in some maps as a hiking trail, and is used by visitors to nearby tourism sites.

Additionally, the court ruled that the army knew of shepherds entering the site, as there is an active well there from which they water the flock.

The defense argued that the zone was scanned for safety according to protocol. However, the state failed to present the report typically issued after such a scan, and the court ruled that the army did not follow protocol and failed to scan the firing zone.

A fire zone in the Jordan Valley along the Israel National Trail.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

During the trial, there was a discussion on marking fire zones. One witness claimed that the only sign marking the zone is on a concrete slab by Kibbutz Almog. A defense official also testified that there is no signage in the area where Rafaiqa was injured. However, the court did not accept Rafaiqa’s claim that he did not know it was a firing zone, because he lives in the area and should be familiar with it.

The court agreed that the zone cannot be fenced because of its size, and that there are “quite a few” signs that warn of danger. The judge admitted that there is “difficulty when it comes to signage” because concrete and metal signs are often stolen.

The defense ministry declined to comment.