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Israeli security forces fire teargas at Palestinian homes and children without justification, injuring toddler and 6-yr-old, May '17

‘Abud, 19 May 2017: 1.5-year-old harmed by inhaling tear gas

On Friday, 19 May 2017, at around 1:30 P.M., residents of ‘Abud – a Palestinian village that lies northwest of Ramallah – held a march in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. At the eastern entrance to the village, the marchers came face to face with scores of Israeli Border Police officers, soldiers and military and police vehicles, who were stationed some two hundred meters west of the village entrance. The security forces fired tear gas at the protestors, most of whom retreated, but several youths remained and threw rocks at the security forces.

Footage of the evacuation of ‘Abd a-Rahman al-Majid, filmed by Falastin TV.

Mahmoud al-Majid, 28, a married father of two from the village, lives a few dozen meters away from the spot where the forces were located. He participated in the march but, when the forces started firing tear gas, returned home fearing for the health of his toddler son. The 18-month-old, ‘Abd a-Rahman, had a neuromuscular disease (ALS) and was hooked up to an oxygen tank in the family’s first-floor apartment. When al-Majid got home, he immediately shut all the doors and windows and sealed the doorsteps with wet towels, to prevent the gas from seeping in. About an hour later, he saw a group of police officers taking up positions on the roof and second floor of a nearby building, about fifty meters away. They fired tear gas canisters at the protestors, who were throwing rocks at them.

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 20 May 2017, al-Majid described those moments:

Things were especially bad because the protestors were gathered near our house, in front of the officers. The police shot tear gas at them and the canisters fell into our garden and hit the walls of our house. I went out more than once or leaned out the window, asking the protestors to back away because we have a sick child inside who can’t handle the gas. Some agreed and moved away for a while but, unfortunately, they came back. 

The gas started seeping into the house. First, it went into our guest room and through the stairwell, which isn’t covered. My brother told me later that at least one tear gas canister landed on the stairs, and from there the gas came into the ground floor. We started coughing and tearing up. My daughter Lujin, 3, didn’t feel well. I sprayed some air fresheners and turned on the fans, but we couldn’t get the odor under control. We had to shut ourselves in the bedroom with the oxygen tank. Even though I’d sealed the entrances to the room and covered them with sheets after we went in, the gas still reached us.

‘Abd a-Rahman had been hooked up to the oxygen tank since the morning. He started looking ill after about half an hour. He vomited, his eyes rolled and his face got cold. I was afraid he was going to die. I wanted to go outside and ask the protestors to get an ambulance, because I know there are usually ambulances where the protests are. But I was afraid that if I opened the door, more gas would come in and I’d lose my son. Finally, I had no choice and I went outside. 

A person nearby tried to help al-Majid hail an ambulance that was parked at the entrance to the village, but the road was blocked by the security forces’ vehicles and the ambulance couldn’t get up to the house. Al-Majid carried his son, with the oxygen tank, over to ambulance, accompanied by his wife. On the way, two rescue team members joined them and helped carry ‘Abd a-Rahman.

On 28 May 2017, Nader Murar, 37, a Red Crescent paramedic, told B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad what happened :

When we got to the village, we came across soldiers who signaled us to stop advancing. I turned around and pulled over, about ten meters away from them. About ten minutes later, I heard people and journalists who were on the porches of the houses yelling to us. They were signaling with their hands for us to bring the ambulance over. We didn’t get a 101 call so we weren’t sure what was happening. We thought they were just asking us to get closer to where the protest was taking place.

A few minutes later I saw two rescue team members coming towards us, one of them carrying a small baby. The parents were with them. They were carrying an oxygen tank, apparently for the baby. When they got to the cruisers that were blocking the road, they were allowed through and got to us. On the way to the hospital, I tried to give the baby first aid. His face was pale and he smelled of gas. His body was turning blue. He wasn’t breathing and his heartbeat was faint.

‘Abd a-Rahman and his parents were driven by the ambulance to hospital in Abu Qash, which they reached in ten minutes. From there, ‘Abd a-Rahman was taken to hospital in Ramallah. That night, he was transferred to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, with his mother by his side. The Israeli authorities refused to let the father accompany him on the grounds that he was under a “security ban”. At the hospital, ‘Abd a-Rahman was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was given antibiotics and hooked up to a respirator. He was released from hospital about three weeks later. On 7 July 2017, he passed away.

Al-Khader, 21 May 2017: Six-year-old hit directly in the head by tear gas canister

Hassan ‘Issa and his father, Ahmad ‘Issa, in their home. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bri, B’Tselem, 20 June 2017
Hassan ‘Issa and his father, Ahmad ‘Issa, in their home. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bri, B’Tselem, 20 June 2017

On 21 May 2017, shortly after 10:00 A.M., Israeli soldiers fired tear gas near the boys’ school in al-Khader, a Palestinian town east of Bethlehem. The gas canisters were aimed at a group of children who were throwing stones at the soldiers and at cars driving on Route 60. The soldiers were about 100 meters away from the children. As some of the gas penetrated the classrooms, the children were dismissed from school. As they were leaving, one boy – Hassan ‘Issa, 6 – was it in the head by a canister. The soldiers were some 150 meters away from him.

F.A., a student in the school, said in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja'bri on 24 May 2017:

When I left the school I saw children, around 12 years old, standing nearby and throwing stones towards the soldiers, who were standing at the top of the hill. I started to run away to avoid choking on the gas. As I was doing that, a tear gas canister fell near the school and I saw first-grader named Hassan, my friend and neighbor, drop to the ground exactly where it fell. About six kids, ages 10 to 12, lifted Hassan, who was unconscious, and ran with him along the road leading to the main street. There they handed him to a man who put him in a private car.

Ahmad Da’du’, 26, unmarried, from al-Khader told B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 23 May 2017 what happened:

I heard the sound of tear gas being fired and saw the military forces on the hill behind the school, shooting tear gas canisters at the kids. They fired about six canisters, one after the other. A few minutes later, I saw a group of children lifting a small child. He looked unconscious, and they quickly ran down with him to the street from the area where the tear gas was fired, near the school.

I ran over to them and asked what had happened to the child. They said a tear gas canister hit his head. I examined his head. He was unconscious. I saw a round bruise, a few centimeters wide, in the lower left part of the head. There was no blood but I could see blood pooling under the skin, where he’d been hit. I immediately stopped a private car and we took the child to al-Yamamah Hospital, about a kilometer away. I didn’t know the kid but I took some books out of his bag and his name, Hassan Ahmad ‘Issa, was written on one of them.

In the meantime, Hassan ’s father, Ahmad Issa, 28, found out his son had been hurt and taken to hospital in the town. He hurried to the hospital, where he found his son unconscious and hooked up to a respirator. Hassan was taken to hospital in Beit Jala, and from there, after some tests, to the hospital of the Arab Rehabilitation Association in Bethlehem. There he was given a CT, which showed an internal brain hemorrhage, and Hassan was sent for surgery.

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field research Musa Abu Hashhash on 20 June 2017, Hassan ’s father said:

The next day they did another CT to follow up on the hemorrhage. I was very worried. I didn’t leave his side. I was afraid that at any moment they would come and tell me he’d died. My wife was with me and she couldn’t stop crying. She refused to go home and take care of our six-month-old baby. We were so upset. We were anxious about what the second CT would show. Luckily, it showed that the hemorrhaging was in the cerebellum and had gone down. Hassan underwent a two-and-a-half-hour operation, which was successful. 

Though the operation was a success, I was worried that the injury would damage his eyesight or that there would be other complications. I calmed down only when he was sent home, four days later. While he was in hospital, our lives were completely disrupted. It was Ramadan, and we couldn’t be with our two other children and take care of them. I constantly tried to calm my wife. She was very worried.

Two days after his release, Hassan developed respiratory difficulties and was taken for treatment at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. He remained in hospital for nine days for tests and respiratory and drug treatment, and was released in good condition. 

In both these incidents, Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers fired tear gas canisters at civilians and homes, hurting two children, one six and the other only 18 months old. These injuries are the direct of result of sending security forces into Palestinian villages, with no justification or need. 

The use of “crowd control” measures – in this case, tear gas canisters – puts civilians at risk. This includes babies, children, the elderly and medical patients. Israel relies on the fact that these measures are considered “non-lethal”. However, using them in a lenient, permissive and indiscriminate manner, in circumstances that do not require their use at all, while disregarding the danger involved, may cause severe and completely unjustifiable injuries.