Palestinian Teen Loses Eye to Sponge-tipped Bullet Shot by Israeli Police

Nur Hamdan, 13, was standing on the balcony of his Jerusalem home when he was hit by the bullet, his family says; Police: Troops responded with crowd-control weapons after being pelted with rocks

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
Nur Hamdan with his father in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Jerusalem, July 10, 2017
Nur Hamdan with his father in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Jerusalem, July 10, 2017Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A 13-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem lost his eye Sunday night when he was hit by a sponge-tipped bullet, fired by the police.

The family of the teenager, Nur Hamdan, said that the bullet hit him while he was standing on their second-floor balcony. He also suffered eye socket fractures and other facial injuries.

The police said that troops came to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah due to a fight between neighbors. When they arrived, Palestinians began pelting them with rocks and other items, and in response they used crowd-control weapons to drive the stone-throwers away.

Nur’s uncle, Ali Hamdan, said the boy wasn’t involved in the incident at all, but was simply standing on the balcony alongside his mother and a cousin.

“The children were playing on the balcony until my wife called them to come inside because of the police,” the elder Hamdan said. “He was hit just as he stood up to go in.”

Nur was taken first to a local clinic, then to Hadassah University Hospital on Mt. Scopus, and finally to Hadassah’s Ein Karem campus.

About three years ago, the police began using a new kind of sponge-tipped bullet, colored black, which is heavier, harder and more lethal than the old blue type. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel says the new bullets have so far caused dozens of serious injuries and one death.

“This is a dangerous weapon that has already taken the life of one teen and caused head injuries to dozens of people, including children,” said attorney Nisreen Alyan of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “Some lost their sight.”

“It’s unacceptable that people who are on their balconies or near a window shouldn’t be safe, and should be injured by sponge-tipped bullets fired contrary to police regulations,” Alyan added. “This isn’t the first time a serious incident like this has happened in Isawiyah, and it clarifies the need for oversight of the police by the attorney general, and also the need to stop using the black sponge-tipped bullets.”

According to police regulations, sponge-tipped bullets should never be fired at children; if fired at adults, they should be aimed exclusively at their legs. Nevertheless, there have been dozens of cases in which people lost their eyes or suffered other facial injuries from such bullets. In 2014, teenager Mohammed Sunuqrut was killed by a sponge-tipped bullet, and in another case, a Palestinian hit by one of these bullets suffered serious brain injury.

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