Following the death of Muhammad ‘Asfur this morning from injuries sustained two weeks ago, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem wrote to Military Advocate General Major-General Danny Efroni, repeating its demand that cases of severe injury to Palestinians by soldiers’ fire be immediately investigated. Two days ago, B’Tselem sent the MAG a list of five incidents in which Palestinians were injured recently by soldiers, including the case of ‘Asfur, who was shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet.
In the letter, B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell stated that, as ‘Asfur died from his wounds, the MAG’s current policy requires that an investigation be opened into the incident. There is no doubt that the two-week delay since the event will harm the effectiveness of the investigation. B’Tselem has repeatedly warned military authorities of the danger of the illegal use of rubber-coated bullets. The investigation must not only examine the immediate circumstances in which ‘Asfur was killed, but also the orders that were given for use of these bullets during the event, the measures that were taken to ensure soldiers’ familiarity with the orders, and the command responsibility for the shooting.
B’Tselem also repeated its demand to immediately investigate four additional cases, detailed below. Muhammad ‘Asfur’s death blatantly illustrates that the distinction between cases of killing and cases of severe injury is artificial. Why should suspicion of illegal conduct justify an investigation when a person is killed, but not justify investigation if the person is wounded in similar circumstances?
Officially, the policy of the MAG’s Office is to automatically open an MPIU investigation only when a Palestinian who was not involved in fighting was killed by soldiers in the West Bank. However, in the cases concerned, the suspected illegal shooting may equally have resulted in death and not injury, according to information that B’Tselem has gathered about the circumstances of each incident. Therefore, the goal of holding the shooters accountable and preventing similar cases by deterring other soldiers must apply to cases of severe injury, as well as to cases of death.
In the letter, B’Tselem also noted the recent recommendation given by the Turkel Commission in its 6 Feb. ’13 report, which concluded examination of the Israeli mechanism of investigation of suspected breaches of international humanitarian law. The Commission recommended that the military investigate cases in which soldiers’ fire causes severe injury, and not only cases of killing, in the West Bank.
In addition to the case of Muhammad ‘Asfur, B’Tselem demands an MPIU investigation into four other cases:
- On Monday, 25 Feb. ’13, at approximately 4:00 P.M., in the ‘Aida refugee camp close to Rachel’s Tomb, 13.5-year-old Muhammad al-Kurdi was struck by live ammunition (apparently an 0.22-caliber bullet). He was severely wounded in his chest and leg and was hospitalized at Al-Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala. His medical condition has slightly improved; when stabilized, he will have to undergo two operations to remove the bullets lodged in his body.
- Later that day, at approximately 8:00 P.M., 16-year-old ‘Udai Saleh was also injured at ‘Aida refugee camp, not far from where al-Kurdi was shot. He was critically wounded by a bullet that struck his head (apparently an 0.22-caliber bullet). He was taken to Al-Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala and was then transferred to Hadassah Ein-Karem Hospital in Israel. He remains unconscious and is still in critical condition.
- On Friday, 1 March ’13, at approximately 4:00 P.M., close to Qalandiya checkpoint, 20-year-old Mahmud ‘Awwad was struck in the head and severely wounded (apparently by a rubber-coated metal bullet). He was taken to a hospital in Ramallah and quickly transferred to Hadassah Ein-Karem Hospital in Israel, due to the severity of the injury: His skull was cracked. He underwent an eight-hour operation but his condition remains severe.
- On the same day, at approximately 5:00 P.M., 23-year-old journalist Jihad al-Qadi was severely injured close to Ofer Prison. He was taken to the Ramallah Medical Center, where he remains in intensive care.