Palestinian Boy May Lose Eye After Jerusalem Police Shoot Him With Sponge-tipped Bullet

Nine-year-old's father says shooting not preceded by violent protests or stone-throwing

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Residents and police officers in Isawiya in 2019.
Residents and police officers in Isawiya in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Police shot and wounded a 9-year-old Palestinian boy in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet in the Isawiyah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Saturday.

The boy’s father, Wahel Issa, said there were no stones being thrown or violent protests when police opened fire. The Israel Police said that “during an operation by the police in Isawiyah, the troops employed riot control measures during which a minor, aged about nine, was wounded. The circumstances are under investigation.”

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The boy, Malek Issa, was taken to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus and then transferred to Hadassah Ein Karem with serious facial wounds. He may have suffered some brain damage and is at risk of losing an eye, his father said.

Issa has undergone one surgery Saturday overnight. According to his family, doctors said he is likely to lose one of his eyes, and is at risk of losing the other. He is expected to be operated on again on Sunday.

“I turn my home into a prison for my kids because of all the problems in the village,” the boy’s father said. “I’m afraid for them, I don’t let them out, and they can’t even open the door on their own. But no matter how much I try to protect them, it doesn’t help.” 

Malek Issa in the hospital after being wounded, and before the shooting.
Malek Issa in the hospital after being wounded, and before the shooting.Credit: Courtesy of Issa family

He said his son had returned from school with his younger sisters. “He called his mother to come and pick them up, but she told them the weather was fine so they could come home on their own,” Issa said.

“At the site where they turned in from the main road, police were trying to take someone and many people gathered.  There were no stones or anything. The police saw a lot of people and opened fire. The boy was hit between the eyes,” Issa said.

Hundreds of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been wounded by sponge-tipped bullets fired by police in recent years, and dozens have lost their eyes, while others have lost their sight as a result of being shot. In 2014, the police swapped their softer, blue sponge-tipped bullets for the tougher black ones that cause more serious injuries.

Police regulations forbid officers from shooting the sponge-tipped bullets at upper parts of the body, and they are not permitted to shoot minors with these bullets. However, not a single police officer has been charged with illegally shooting sponge-tipped bullets.

Police activity in Isawiya has decreased in recent weeks, after over half a year that saw frequent raids and the arrest of hundreds. Residents have said police activity has seriously degraded day-to-day life and constitutes collective punishment. In a number of cases, police officers have been recorded using excessive force. One resident was killed after throwing firecrackers at police, and several dozen were wounded by sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas.

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