Israeli Army Tones Down Accusations Against Palestinian Teen Who Was Shot in Head

Israeli army claimed Mohammed Tamimi's bullet wound to the head was caused by a bike crash, but published a clarification regarding 'teen's confession' later in the day

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Palestinian Mohammed al-Tamimi, 15, sits at his family home in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 27, 2018. 
Mohammed, who is the cousin of jailed teenager Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, was shot in the head with a rubber bullet in December leaving him with permanent damage to his skull, relatives say.  / AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI
Palestinian Mohammed al-Tamimi, 15, sits at his family home in the West Bank city of Ramallah, February 27, 2018.Credit: ABBAS MOMANI/AFP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli army published a new statement Tuesday regarding the confession of the cousin of Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, who admitted during an interrogation that he was not shot in his head during clashes last year, but rather was injured in a bike accident.

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who made the initial claim, wrote a second statement late Tuesday night regarding the confession, saying that he presented both accounts of what happened to the Palestinian teen.

>>How the Israeli army got a teen who was shot in the head to say he fell off a bike | Analysis

Mohammed Tamimi, the 15-year-old cousin of Ahed – who was caught on film slapping Israel Defense Forces soldiers on December 15, 2017, and is currently facing trial – was shot minutes before that incident in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. 

At the time, Tamimi was seriously wounded and was operated on by doctors who extracted bullet fragments from his skull. Tamimi was arrested Monday in his village, along with nine other Palestinian youths, half of whom are minors.

Israeli army: Tamimi's teen cousin admits head wounds not caused by bullet, but by bike crashCredit: Haaretz

Tamimi was released after his interrogation.

Writing on Almunasseq, COGAT's Arabic-language Facebook page, Mordechai challenged the original story behind Tamimi's head injury. He wrote that while being questioned by police, the teen admitted that, as opposed to claims by his father that he was injurred by rubber-tipped bullets during clashes, "he was injured while he was riding his bicycle and fell off it."

According to the IDF general, the fall "caused a blow to his skull when hitting the handlebars." Mordechai claimed that it was the injury from this accident, and not a bullet, that prompted doctors to operate and remove a part of the teen's skull.

Mohammed Tamimi - 15 years old from Nebi Saleh

However, in the second statement, COGAT wrote, "We wish to clarify in an unequivocal that the post was based on the boy's account of the events. We stress that we presented two versions, that of the father's and that of the boy, under the headline of 'What really happened to Mohammad Tamimi?' in regards to the Palestinian culture of lies and incitement. In this case, the truth is what is important to us and we will continue to present the truth in the face of systemic Palestinian lies."

The bullet removed from Tamimi's head (L), and CT scan of the bullet in Tamimi's head.Credit: Nabi Saleh Popular Committee
Mohammed Tamimi's surgical report

In the initial Facebook post, Moredchai asked: "What is the truth about Mohammed Tamimi? His father claimed that his son had a rubber bullet in his skull and that the doctors had to remove part of his skull in order take it out," the COGAT chief wrote, adding sarcastically, "Wonder of wonders. Today, the boy himself confessed to the police and to COGAT that in December his skull was injured when he was riding his bicycle."

Mordechai went on in the post to blast what he described as Tamimi's "culture of lies and incitement." His post included an image of the story he referenced with the words "fake news" plastered on it in Arabic.

However, the version of events described by Mordechai does not coincide eyewitness accounts obtained by Haaretz, according to which the day Tamimi was injured, IDF forces were firing at Palestinians who were throwing stones, with the aim of dispersing them. Tamimi, witnesses said, was standing on a ladder behind a wall and was hit in the head the moment he raised it above the ledge.

Haaretz has also seen Tamimi's CAT scan and images of the bullet fractures removed from his skull.

Residents of Nabi Saleh said Tamimi told the police that he had been hurt in a bike accident and not shot by the IDF so that he would be released after being detained. They said he was scared and worried that if he said he had been shot, there would be evidence against him and his detention would be extended.

After Mordechai's post was published, the Tamimi family responded that "what began as a bizarre attempt to prove that we are not even a family has deteriorated into a denial of reality."

In response to request to comment from Haaretz, army sources said that Tamimi was questioned by the police, and they cannot confirm the origins of his injury.

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