Rabin’s legacy: Protesters’ accounts show Israel ‘breaking the bones’ of peaceful demonstrators

11 February 2009

From Ma’an News Agency

Israeli forces are carrying out a policy of shooting at the legs of peaceful demonstrators who protest the Israeli separation wall each Friday in towns across the West Bank, demonstrators are reporting.

The accounts of the Palestinian demonstrators who have been wounded by Israeli fire in recent weeks is raising the legacy of the first Palestinian Intifada, when Israeli then-defense minister Yitzak Rabin ordered his soldiers to “break the bones” of young protesters.

A representative of the Popular Committee against the Wall in the village of Ni’lin, Ahed Al-Khawaja, said that Israeli snipers, shooting from nearby hilltops or from stands of trees, are causing debilitating injuries, especially among young men who come to demonstrate.

In the village of Jayyus, which also holds a weekly demonstration against the wall, protesters said Israeli soldiers put silencers on their guns. When five young men were shot at last Friday’s demonstration, none of the marchers present said they heard the sound of gunshots when they were shot.

In Ni’lin, soldier allowed the protesters to reach the wall, then opened fire without warning, deploying tear gas and sound grenades. According to witnesses, soldiers fired on demonstrators as they were fleeing, their backs turned.

On 9 January, a Ma’an photojournalist, Khalil Ryash was among those who was shot in the legs. Another young man was also shot that day while he was sitting in his front yard.

“At the beginning, I did not feel pain,” Ryash said. “A medic tried to help me and I told him I was okay and did not need help. As soon as I finished the phrase, I felt very severe pain in my leg and I was evacuated to an ambulance which was about 100 meters away. The pain became intolerable. We got to Azzun health center where I was x-rayed and medics told me I had shrapnel in my leg, and needed to be taken to a hospital.”

“In hospital they discovered that I was hit by a live gunshot in my left leg, and the gunshot exited from my leg leaving behind shrapnel of different sizes. The doctor told me that some of the larger shrapnel could be removed after the wound heals up, but other could not be removed because removal would tear muscles.”

It was later learned that Ryash was hit with a new brand of ammunition that produces a scatter-shot, a spray of metal pellets that embed themselves in the flesh.

Muhammad Al-Khawaja, 26, from Ni’lin was injured last week. He was hit by a similar gunshot.

Al-Khawaja described his experience: “About half an hour after we arrived at the site of the separation wall, Israeli soldiers showered demonstrators with gunshots and tear gas canisters. As demonstrators rushed away, I was hit by a gunshot to my right leg and was taken to hospital. Doctors discovered that the gunshot penetrated the bones and the muscle leaving behind 20 pieces of shrapnel of which they removed some, but those in the bone they could not remove.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Hamada Al-Khawaja, also from Ni’lin was shot after the demonstration was over.

He said, “At about 4:00 pm, on Friday 6 February, and after confrontations were over, I wandered with my friends trying to see what happened in the village. Israeli soldiers were stationed on a hill at the other side of the wall. They started firing at us gunshots and tear gas canisters. As I turned trying to flee the scene, a gunshot hit me in the leg. I could not move, and was evacuated to hospital. Doctors discovered that the bullet broke my bones and left behind 10 pieces of shrapnel in different sizes.”