Recently, Occupation forces have been using live bullets against youth at weekly demonstrations. A large number of people have suffered leg wounds from a particular type of bullet fired by snipers often using silenced weapons.



Ahad Khawajeh, the representative of the Popular Committee in the village of Ni’lin, explained that soldiers have repeatedly promised the demonstrators that they would use live bullets against them in order to inflict permanent injuries on younger activists. In the past month, snipers have been stationed on hills or among trees and have fired upon youth with live ammunition. A type of bullet is employed which explodes inside the body, leaving behind shrapnel that is incredibly difficult to remove.



Occupation forces fired these bullets for the first time in Jayyous, where they used silenced rifles. Prior to the start of the demonstration, soldiers had hidden themselves amongst the trees. Demonstrators arrived at the gate without confronting the army when five young men were hit with live fire. The group whom we spoke to had been present at the demonstration and reported not hearing any noise or seeing any flash before the targeted youth fell.



In Ni’lin, on the same day, soldiers used a different tactic against the demonstration. When demonstrators arrived at the site where the Wall is being constructed, soldiers immediately fired tear gas and sound bombs. As the crowd dispersed to escape from the gas, some of the youth fell to the ground. Their wounds indicated that they had been hit by the same type of live bullets that were used in Jayyous that same day. Soldiers continued using these bullets, resulting in more than 10 separate injures in Ni’lin. Later, another young man was shot in Jayyous while he was sitting in a chair outside his home.



One of the wounded in Jayyous was 31 year-old journalist Khalil Muhammad ‘Aiyad Reyash. He works as a photographer for Ma’an News and was hit while covering the demonstration in the village. He explained in detail what happened:



“On Friday, 9 January 2009, I was covering the weekly demonstration in Jayyous, and I was wearing a protective vest with “Press” written on it in English and Arabic. I was going out with the demonstration, from the center of the village to the southern side of it, where the gate in the Apartheid Wall is. Strangely, there were no Occupation soldiers there, and the demonstrators arrived at the gate and took to shouting slogans against the Wall.



“Then, I heard a slight sound, closest to [the sound of] a light wind. I thought in the beginning that the soldiers had arrived in the area and fired gas bombs that were dispersing amongst the demonstrators. I glanced in the direction that the demonstrators were rushing, and snapped three pictures. I was still expecting that a gas bomb would explode among the demonstrators, and I going to take a fourth picture when I felt something hit my right leg and I fell on the ground.



“In the beginning I didn’t feel any pain, until one of the medics moved me away from the rushing crowd. I said to him that I was OK and didn’t require help, but as soon as I finished the sentence, I felt a strong pain in my leg. They moved me 100 meters in the direction where the ambulance was parked, and the pain was beginning to reach a level to where I couldn’t stand it.



“We arrived at the ‘Azzun medical center, and there took an X-ray, and the doctor told me that he found shrapnel in my leg and that it was necessary to move me to the hospital.



“They made it clear in the hospital that I had been wounded with a live bullet in my right leg, and that the bullet exited from the other side, leaving shrapnel of varying sizes. The doctor who treated me said that some of the big pieces of shrapnel could be removed after the wound heals, while some of the others could not be removed because it could lead to the tearing of the muscle.”



Muhammed Mustafa Jamil al-Khawajeh, a 26-year-old from Ni’lin, had been injured the same day by bullets of the same type. He described what happened:



“About a half hour after we arrived at the Wall, Occupation soldiers fired a heavy barrage of sound and gas bombs among the demonstrators. The demonstrators began to rush away from the gas, and I was wounded by a bullet in my right leg. They moved me to the hospital, and there they announced that the bullet had entered the bone and left 20 pieces of shrapnel in the bone and muscle. The doctor was able to removed some of the shrapnel that was stuck in the muscle, but he wasn’t able to get the shrapnel out of the bone.”



Hamada ‘Abdurazeq Mustafa al-Khawajeh, 29 years old and also from Ni’lin, was wounded after the actions had finished on a different day. He said, “It was around four in the afternoon on Friday, 6 February 2009, and after the confrontations, which happened in the village from the march against the Wall, finished. I went out with my friends and looked at what happened in the village. There were Occupation soldiers concentrated on the side where the Wall is up on the hill. The soldiers fired gas bombs in our direction. I turned around to leave the area and one of the soldiers hit me with a live bullet that stuck in my leg, and after that I couldn’t move it. They moved me to the hospital, and there they told me that the bullet had broken in the bone, and left 10 pieces of shrapnel of various sizes.”



This pattern indicates that soldiers are adopting more vicious tactics in their attempts to stop the growing weekly demonstrations. The targeting of youth, particularly with the aim of causing permanent physical damage, is not new. Rather, it mirrors the orders given by Rabin during the first Intifada when he called on his soldiers to break the bones of young Palestinian activists. But just as military brutality failed to crush the spirit of the first Intifada, so are these new tactics failing to deter Palestinians from continuing their actions against the Wall.



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