Two Palestinians from Isawiyah in East Jerusalem were recently shot in the face by police firing sponge-tipped bullets – while they were in their homes, and during times when, according to the victims and Palestinian eyewitnesses, there were no disturbances in the area.
Louis Faisel Abed, 35, was standing on the porch of his second-floor home two weeks ago when he was hit in the face by a sponge-tipped bullet fired by policemen patrolling on his street. He lost his left eye and suffered fractures to his nose and eye-socket area.
Ten days later, this past Sunday, Mazen Abu Humus and his wife Nadia were standing at the front window of their first-floor home when a police patrol that passed nearby fired a sponge bullet at the house, smashing the window and hitting Abu Humus in the face. He suffered a deep cut to his forehead that required stitches, while his wife suffered cuts to her face and right eye from the glass shards. They and others insist that there were no disturbances going on at the time.
“We were at home near the window, we looked at the policemen, my wife told me to close the window and then they gave me a bullet in the head for no reason,” Abu Humus said. “There were no stones, there weren’t even any kids in the street. They just saw me in the window and fired.”
Sponge-tipped bullets are meant to be used only to disperse rioters and are to be aimed solely at the lower body. In July 2014, the police began using a new black sponge-tipped bullet that is heavier and more dangerous than the blue-tipped bullet used previously. Since the new bullet was introduced, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has documented 25 cases of what it deems unjustified injuries by sponge-tipped bullets. Twelve people have lost eyes, including five minors, the youngest six years old.
A sponge-tipped bullet is thought to have killed Mohammed Sunuqrut in Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood last year. The investigation of that incident by the Justice Ministry has yet to be concluded.
Two weeks ago ACRI attorney Anne Suciu contacted the investigation department demanding that the probe be wrapped up. She told Haaretz that in only one case, out of all the seemingly gratuitous injuries that the organization has documented, was the victim arrested.
“If the victims weren’t arrested then the assumption is there was no justification for hurting them,” she said.
Jerusalem police said, “In disturbances that endanger policemen and civilians, riot-dispersal means are used to prevent harm to innocent people. Every claim of these means being improperly used can be sent for examination to the department for the investigation of police officers.”
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