B'Ttselem Calls on IDF to Stop Using Sniper Rifle, .22 Caliber Bullets

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An IDF sniper with his Ruger rifle across his chest and his M-16 over a shoulder.Credit: AFP

The Israeli human rights organization B'Ttselem on Tuesday called on the Israel Defense Forces to cease using a .22 caliber bullet - known in the army as the Toto bullet - to disperse demonstrations, and to refrain from using live ammunition in circumstances that do not pose a danger to human life.

B'Ttselem's call followed the release of the conclusions of a preliminary investigation into the death of a Palestinian youth in Aida refugee camp on Monday. The investigation found that Abed a-Rahman Abdallah, 13, had been hit in the chest by a Toto bullet fired from a Ruger sniper's rifle.

At least four Palestinians, including Abdallah, have been killed by Toto bullets and dozens wounded, some of them seriously, since the beginning of the year, B'Ttselem said in a statement.

The organization said that it had been documenting the use of Toto bullets against demonstrators for years and warned that the reality in the occupied territories contradicts the statements of the IDF to the effect that the use of the ammunition is controlled and limited.

If, as the army maintains, the shooting of Abdallah was a mistake by the sniper, who missed his target and hit the boy instead, it only goes to highlight the dangers of using the ammunition, B'Tselem said.

Restriction on the use of the Ruger and Toto ammunition – which the army falsely presents as non-lethal and appropriate for use in disturbances – have been gradually lifted, according to B'Tselem. Today, it said, "snipers use the bullets as a matter of course in many places throughout the West Bank, including in circumstances where lives are not in danger and which are very far from those in which live fire is permitted."

The simple fact, according to B'Tselem, is that the "the weapon is lethal and falsely presented by the authorities as a reasonable means of dealing with demonstrations."

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