Israel's public security minister has called for an investigation into the Israel Police's use of hard sponge-tipped bullets against Bedouin, five of whom suffered head injuries, during protests last month over the planting of JNF trees.
Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev asked the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit to investigate the cases after learning about them from a report published by the Hebrew edition of Haaretz on Sunday.
Bar-Lev told Haaretz that he was shocked by the report and that the Justice Ministry has told him that the matter is being examined. Haaretz is only aware of a single complaint filed by a victim’s family – that of Abdullah Tarabin, a 16-year-old who lost an eye after being hit by a sponge-tipped bullet. His father told Haaretz that his son was an innocent bystander.
On Sunday, Joint List Knesset member Ahmad Tibi submitted a parliamentary question to Bar-Lev regarding injuries sustained by Bedouin during a demonstration on January 13, where Bedouin protested tree planting by the Jewish National Fund on land they used for farming.
As reported by Haaretz, four demonstrators were injured in the upper portions of their bodies within a period of four minutes by sponge-tipped bullets.
In 2000, after unrest in the Arab community resulted in the deaths of 13 Arab demonstrators and one Jewish Israeli, police use of rubber-coated bullets to disperse demonstrations was outlawed. Tibi asked why the hard sponge-tipped bullets that police are currently using shouldn’t also be outlawed.
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“Five head wounds in ten days, 36 in two and half years, is intentional policy, not a mistake,” Tibi told Haaretz, “the result of excessive violence, brutal repression and trigger-happiness that must be stopped, not encouraged and backed.”
In June of last year, the police loosened restrictions on the use of hard sponge-tipped bullets, which replaced smaller and lighter sponge-tipped bullets that police had used in earlier years.