Border Police Deliberately Provoke Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Internal Reports Say

In one such initiation of 'friction,' a confrontation was sparked in which a boy was shot in the head with a sponged-tipped bullet, putting him in a coma.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Border Police officers in East Jerusalem.
Border Police officers in East Jerusalem (illustrative photo). Credit: AFP
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Border policemen initiate “friction” with residents of East Jerusalem to provoke a violent response from them, according to police reports. Just such a provocation apparently took place in Isawiyah earlier this year, sparking confrontations in which a boy was seriously wounded.

On January 6, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Border Police troops who entered the East Jerusalem village. During the confrontations Ahmed Abu Humus, 12, was shot in the head with a sponged-tipped bullet. Suffering serious brain damage, he was sedated and on a respirator for three weeks, and since then is not communicating with his family.

The family, represented by attorney Eitay Mack, filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers. Two months ago, the department told Mack it had decided to close the case because “there was no evidentiary basis of an offense being committed.” Mack tried to appeal that decision, but when he asked for the department’s file he found that it was practically empty.

Mack only got the full file last week. It included 10 reports made by police who were involved in the clashes. Nearly all of them reported that the events began with a “friction activity” or an “initiated friction activity.” One policeman named Timor said, “During the afternoon shift we launched an activity in Isawiyah to create friction with the residents.” Two other policemen reported that they “were asked to come to the Menta gas station in Isawiyah for a friction activity in the village,” and that they were briefed before getting started.

The Border Police claims that these are not deliberate provocations, but pinpoint activities aimed at arresting suspects following earlier events, or based on intelligence information received. Still, the reports indicate that on January 6 there were no incidents in Isawiyah, though the previous day there had been four cases of stone-throwing in and near the village.

Isawiyah is considered one of the most tense locations in East Jerusalem, and for lengthy periods there were almost daily clashes between policemen and residents who threw stones and firebombs at them. Village residents, like residents of other areas in the Arab part of the city, claim that the violence is often deliberately provoked by the police. The clashes in which Abu Humus was wounded only started when the police entered the village, residents said.

“This is irresponsible behavior and the residents pay the price,” said Mack. “These are not necessary activities. Then the police claim their lives were endangered and use their weapons. It’s extremely grave that that’s how it ends.”

Attorney Anne Suciu of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel added, “This is fundamentally invalid behavior that totally contradicts the role and authority of the police. Initiated actions, which aim to create situations that lead police forces to use deadly measures like the Ruger [pistol] and sponge-tipped bullets, reflect a serious disregard for human life and the creation of the calculated risk of harming innocent people, as was indeed proven in the case of 12-year-old Abu Humus.”

Jerusalem police said, “This is an event being investigated by the department for the investigation of police officers and we do not intend to address it. The police cope with serious riots that include lawbreakers who live in the village throwing stones and firebombs at security forces and at innocent civilians traveling on the road to Ma’aleh Adumim. Therefore, we use a variety of means and overt and undercover forces to preserve the security and welfare of the public.”

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