Sponge-tipped Bullet Didn't Kill Palestinian in Al-Aqsa Clashes, Probe Finds

Hospital findings show the 21-year-old Palestinian who collapsed during Al-Aqsa clashes in April has likely died of a heart attack

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Israeli police evacuate al-Sharif from the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in April.
Israeli police evacuate Walid al-Sharif from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in April.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The Palestinian who died during last month’s unrest on the Temple Mount wasn’t hit by a sponge-tipped bullet, an investigation into his death concluded.

The findings, which were obtained by Haaretz, are based on medical opinions and medical documents, including documents from Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, where Walid al-Sharif was hospitalized after being injured.

Al-Sharif, 21, of East Jerusalem, collapsed last month while fleeing from the Temple Mount after police stormed it and was taken to the hospital with mortal injuries. The Palestinians claimed he was hit by a sponge-tipped bullet fired by police. Police said he had been throwing stones at them, but was injured when he fell while running away. He died of his injuries on May 14.

According to the medical documents, there are no marks on Al-Sharif’s body indicating that he was hit by a sponge-tipped bullet. Medical experts at the hospital think he collapsed due to a heart attack, and the heart attack is also what caused the massive brain injury that led to his death.

Video footage from the Temple Mount shows Al-Sharif running away swiftly and then suddenly falling on his face. The police gave him first aid, along with medics at the scene, and he was taken to the hospital with severe facial injuries.

But the medical findings show that the injuries suffered during his fall weren’t what caused his death. Moreover, medical experts said, the kind of massive brain injury he suffered can be caused by a heart attack.

After Al-Sharif died, police wanted to send his body to the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for an autopsy, but the family refused. Police initially considered asking the court to order an autopsy despite the family’s opposition, but ultimately decided to release the body to the family without carrying it. However, they did have the institute do imaging scans of the body.

Al-Sharif was the first Palestinian to die of injuries incurred during rioting on the Temple Mount since 2017. Thousands of Palestinians attended his funeral in East Jerusalem last week, during which clashes erupted between participants and the police.

According to the police, hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones, fireworks and other objects at them. They responded with riot-control measures and arrested 15 people.

Another five suspects were arrested for speeding their car toward a group of police officers, who responded by opening fire. One Palestinian was seriously wounded in the clashes, while six police officers were lightly wounded.

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