3-year-old West Bank Bedouin Hit in Head by Stray Bullet; Israeli Army Looking Into the Case

The family says that the boy, who survived but needs treatment unavailable in the West Bank, was shot during army training in the Jordan Valley

Yasser Abu Aram, 3, at a hospital in Nablus, January 19 2018.
Abed Umar

Yasser Abu Aram, 3, was shot in the head while sleeping on the night of January 8.

Abu Aram, who lives in a Bedouin encampment in the midst of an Israeli army firing zone in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank, started to bleed from his head. The bullet entered the top of his head and penetrated deep inside, yet amazingly enough didn’t cause serious damage. The child woke up, cried and bled, but continued to function normally.

Abu Aram’s grandfather, whose name is also Yasser, told Haaretz that the army was holding exercises that night – which is logical, since the area is a firing zone. The Abu Aram family, like dozens of other people, are living in it illegally, even though the grandfather says the family has been in the area for years and put up its three tents and animal pen on the hill they inhabit hill 12 years ago.

The army confirmed that there are exercises held in the area, but said there was a “lack of correlation” between the family’s version of events and the army’s record of the training times.

No one lives in Abu Aram’s area except for the family. The encampment is on a hill a few hundred meters from the road, and no other community is visible from there. Not far away is the Kfir Brigade training base and the Umm Zuqa nature reserve, adjacent to another military base.

“At 1 A.M. between Monday and Tuesday, we heard a lot of bullets around and one of them hit the tent,” said the grandfather. “I heard it, there were shots coming into the houses. I went back into the house and I saw [the child’s] mother yelling, ‘Look, the boy has blood on his head.’ We didn’t believe it was a bullet because he woke up but didn’t faint or fall or anything. He was moving around normally.”

Complications

The morning after the shooting the boy Yasser began to throw up. After this happened a few times the grandfather took him to a clinic in Tubas, the nearest town. “I thought it was because of something he ate. There was a very small hole [in his head], we thought there had been some kind of needle in the mattress near his head. When the clinic said it was a needle or a stone I took him home.”

But Yasser continued to bleed for several days. “After two days I saw [the wound] wasn’t closing or drying. After two more days I took him back to Tubas. I said maybe it was a bullet, that he was still bleeding, that they should take an x-ray. They sent me for an x-ray and they saw a bullet in his head.”

The grandfather took Yasser to the Rafidia Surgical Hospital in Nablus, where doctors said the bullet would have to come out. But after opening the boy’s skull during surgery, doctors said the hospital didn’t have the technology to remove the bullet from the boy’s brain without possibly causing more damage. “So they closed him up and said there wasn’t anything they could do here, it was too dangerous,” the grandfather said.

The doctors warned that Yasser had to be kept under observation, since at the moment he was fine but if an infection developed the bullet would have to be removed immediately. The family approached the Palestinian Authority with a request to help them get Yasser operated on in Israel, where hospitals have the equipment to remove the bullet. To date they have not gotten any response, and the boy remains hospitalized in Rafidia even though nothing can be done for him there.

The IDF said that its offer of help to the family was refused, but the grandfather told Haaretz he was not aware that any help was offered to bring the boy to Israel. The army said the circumstances of the incident are being investigated.