Israel's police commissioner ordered Tuesday the suspension of an officer who shot a teenage girl in the back during a recent crackdown on unrest in Sheikh Jarrah, after a new video footage of the incident emerged.
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On Tuesday last week four police officers were standing across from the gate that leads to the home of the Kiswani family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood when Mohammed Kiswani and his 16-year-old daughter Jana emerged to see what was happening.
Told to return inside by the police, they had turned and reentered their courtyard when one of the police officers fired his weapon at them without aiming, hitting Jana in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet.
Seconds later, after the gate is closed, the police fired another bullet that hit Mohammed in the leg, and also threw a stun grenade through the bars of the gate. The grenade fell right near the wounded Jana and Mohammed. 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.
“We were calm, there was no problem outside and suddenly he shot a bullet into her back from a short distance," Mohammed Kiswani said in an interview with Kan Bet public radio aired on Wednesday.
"When we started yelling, he shot another bullet. After we fell to the floor, he fired a stun grenade into the house."
The videos documenting the shooting show that the police officer who fired at Jana violated almost every clause in the rule of engagement: they shot at an unarmed minor, did so at short range, and hit her in the upper body without aiming his weapon before shooting.
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The shot was fired even though Jana had walked away from him, back into her yard. After the shooting was reported, the police commissioner ordered on Tuesday the shooter suspended until a clarification of the incident, which will be investigated by the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct.
“I do not know why they did it. Janna has a vertebral fracture and visual impairment, she has difficulty walking," Mohammed Kiswani told Kan Bet public radio, describing how police declined to answer when a friend of the family demanded to know why the officer had opened fire. “He wanted to commit murder,” he added.
According to Kan Bet public radio, the investigation department, which is investigating the case, conducted a preliminary telephone interview with Jana Kiswani and both she and her father are expected to go and speak with police in person on Wednesday.
Two hours before the incident occurred, a police force wearing black uniforms entered Dalman Street in the family’s neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Police officers filled the street after a demonstration held by several dozen Palestinians.
According to a police statement issued after the demonstration, the protesters, “Shouted and expressed support for terror operatives.”
Mohammed Kiswani told Haaretz that he had heard the commander of the special forces unit of the Jerusalem police district, Chief Supt. Ronen 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.”
In response the policeman fires a sponge-tipped bullet, while his comrades continue to march down the street undisturbed, while Hazut was not even wearing a helmet.
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.
"I didn’t say a word. I turned. At the moment I turned, he shot me,” Jana Kiswani told Kan Bet public radio. “I’m being treated in a hospital by a neurologist and surgeon and in a few months I will start physical therapy.”