In the face of allegations that it used live ammunition on unarmed protesters, and following inconsistent statements from soldiers, Israeli Defense Forces have launched an investigation into the shooting deaths of two Palestinian teenagers.
Muhammad Qadus, 16, was shot in the chest and Useid Qadus, 19, took a bullet to the head during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Iraq Burin on Saturday, March 20. The boys, along with several dozen internationals, Palestinians, and Israelis, were protesting against ongoing harassment and violence from nearby settlers as well as restricted access to the village lands. After a handful of protesters threw stones, the IDF responded with "riot dispersal" methods -- tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
The IDF claims that it did not use live ammunition on the crowd. But the army's account is disputed by eyewitnesses, human rights organizations, and medical examiners.
Both entry and exit wounds were visible on Muhammad Qadus's torso. Speaking to Maan News Agency, Sarit Michali of the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem remarked, "Rubber-coated steel bullets will not enter and exit the body in that way. It's very clear these injuries would not have been caused by any kind of crowd-control measure."
An x-ray taken at the Nablus hospital where Usied Qadus underwent emergency surgery following his injury shows a bullet lodged deep in his head. Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak told Maan News Agency, "It's very clear this isn't a rubber bullet."
"The IDF uses two types of rubber bullets; one is shaped like a ball and the other is cylindrical," Pollak explained to Maan. "The object lodged in Useid's skull is shaped like a prism, pointed at the end. It's a bullet."
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dr. Mahmoud Ab Qa'dan, one of the physicians that attended to the boys, explained that rubber-coated bullets are shaped differently from live rounds and, as such, the two appear differently in x-rays. Dr. Ab Qa'dan also commented that rubber-coated bullets cannot cause exit wounds like those on Muhammad Qadus's back. After sending his findings to the Israeli army, Dr. Ab Qa'dan told Al Jazeera, "They have to know their soldiers lied. I sent them the medical evidence so that no one can claim they did not know..."
But, according to a report released by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din in February, there is only a sliver of a chance that anything will come of the Israel army's investigation. From 2000 to 2009, Yesh Din monitored almost 2000 IDF investigations into incidents in which a Palestinian or international claimed the army was guilty of a criminal offense, including unlawful shooting that led to injury or death. Indictments were filed in only six percent of these cases. Many of the soldiers who were prosecuted cut deals with the court that reduced the severity of both the charges and punishments.
"When we look at the number of cases, and we look at the fact that only six percent yield indictments, it is safe to assume that a soldier in the field today will know that he can get away with pretty much anything," Yesh Din's research director Lior Yavne remarks.
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