During raid on al-Fawwar: Military sniper shot a Palestinian man standing on his rooftop 4 times, injuring his hand and legs
A military sniper severely wounded 22-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-‘Amsi with live 0.22 inch caliber bullets (used in Ruger sniper rifles and known as Two-Two bullets). Al-‘Amsi was shot while standing on his rooftop, using a cell phone, during the military raid on al-Fawwar RC in mid-August. Military snipers shot and killed another youth in the refugee camp that day, and wounded thirty others, all with 0.22 inch caliber bullets. Further research by B’Tselem has shown that Muhammad Abu Hashhash, shot and killed on the same day, posed no danger to anyone.
B’Tselem’s research indicates that on the day of the raid, soldiers took over Hani Abu Hashhash’s family home, in the same neighborhood where al-‘Amsi lives. A sniper, outfitted with a Ruger rifle, and a lookout, took up positions on one of the top balconies. Local residents, including Muhammad al-‘Amsi, and TV and media crews, were looking at the soldiers from nearby rooftops. Al-‘Amsi was standing on the roof of his own house, located about 80 meters away from the home that had been taken over by the soldiers, listening to the radio on a cell phone he was holding. In his testimony to B’Tselem field-researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, he said:
At one point, I peeked over to Hani Abu Hashhash’s house. The soldier was still standing at the window. He shouted to me in Arabic: “Where do you want it”?. I took that to mean what part of my body I wanted him to aim the bullet at. I retreated a little, and sat down cross legged, but I felt that I’d been hit in the left leg, in the calf under the knee, and I heard a gunshot, not very loud. A few seconds later, I heard another shot and felt another hit in the same leg, this time in the thigh. A few seconds later, I was hit by another bullet in the right thigh. I crawled from the corner I was in for a few meters, and shouted to the soldier. I asked him to stop shooting: “Stop… Enough… Enough”. The soldier fired another bullet that hit the phone I was holding, and penetrated my hand.
Mahmoud Abu Yusef, a photographer with the Ma’an news agency, who caught some of the incident on video, corroborated al-‘Amsi’s account in his own testimony to B’Tselem’s field-researcher:
I saw a young man climbing up to the roof that was near the one we were standing on. He was holding a phone and talking to friends or neighbors who were standing on the roof with us… I saw a soldier waving at us, like he was trying to tell us something. Suddenly, I heard shots, and I thought he was shooting in our direction, so I escaped along with everyone else, and tried to find cover. When the shooting stopped, I quickly returned to the camera, and I saw the young man who had been on the roof crawling. He was holding his hand up. It was bleeding. I realized he’d been hit. There were no clashes around the house on whose rooftop we were standing at the time of the shooting. The young man who was hit had been standing at the roof and didn’t make any movement that justified targeting him.
Isma’il a-Najar, a neighbor who was also standing on the roof, saw the soldier signaling to al-‘Amsi with his hand:
[Muhammad] was standing, holding a cellular phone in his hand. I saw one of the soldiers waving his hand and talking to him. I asked Muhammad: “What is this idiot telling you”? Before Muhammad managed to answer me, I heard gunfire coming in our direction, so I ran, along with everyone else, to a different corner of the roof. I heard four shots. I didn’t know where the shots were aimed. After it stopped, I went back to where I was standing before, and saw Muhammad crawling, with his right hand up. It was bleeding. I realized he had been the target.
Al-‘Amsi was taken to al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron, where he received initial treatment. Due to the severity of his wounds, he was transferred to the Ramallah Medical Center where he had surgery on both his legs, and remained in hospital for about ten days. His rehabilitation is expected to be long.
A video shot by Mahmoud Abu Yusef and broadcast on Ma’an on 16 August captured part of the incident, and corroborates the witness statements (B'Tselem received the edited video and doesn't have access to the raw footage).
Officially, the open fire regulations for 0.22 inch caliber bullets are restrictive and limit soldiers’ use of this ammunition to cases of mortal danger, like with live fire. However, over the last two years, soldiers have repeatedly used these bullets as a crowd control measure, even when their lives were in no danger whatsoever. Five Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded since March 2015 as a result of this policy. Many sustained permanent disabilities or serious wounds that necessitated lengthy rehabilitation.
In this ongoing state of affairs, it seems that the official regulations are chiefly meant to create a show of legality rather than to prevent harm to individuals who do not pose mortal danger. Even when these regulations are openly violated, with lethal results, the military law enforcement system takes no measures against those responsible for the illegal use of fire and the policy continues unabated. Those responsible are command level officers, as well as senior legal officers, who sanction this reality through their inaction.
Using live ammunition at stone-throwers as a crowd control measure is unlawful. However, in the case of Muhammad al-‘Amsi, even this feeble excuse cannot justify what happened: Soldiers fired four bullets at a young man who was not throwing stones and was not a threat to them in any way, severely injured him and endangered his life.
In the past, B’Tselem would have contacted the authorities in such a case and demanded an immediate criminal investigation against those involved and their superiors and would provide the investigating bodies with the material it had collected. However, after many years of following this practice, B’Tselem has decided to no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system, which functions mainly as a whitewash mechanism. B’Tselem tells victims that it believes there is no point in initiating such a process as the odds that anyone in the security forces would be held to account over what the victim had suffered and over the breach of law are next to nothing.