On 22 April, Israeli forces fired sound canisters and rubber bullets at a group of Palestinians who were celebrating the release of a prisoner in al-Suwwaneh neighbourhood in Jerusalem.
Ihab Ahmad Hamdan – Jerusalem
On the morning of Tuesday 22 April Ihab, 20, along with some of his friends, collected Iyad al-Shalabi from Jalbou’ prison, located in Israel. Iyad had been arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli authorities for a year for throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at an Israeli settlement.
After collecting Iyad, the group arrived at al-Suwwaneh neighbourhood in East Jerusalem at approximately 12:15 pm. There, they gathered with friends and relatives of Iyad. In total, the number of people gathered amounted to approximately 15. The crowd celebrated, carrying Iyad on their shoulders and walking around the street singing and cheering for his homecoming. Some of the youths carried Palestinian flags. Ihab recalls that the group was walking and celebrating on the pavement so as not to block the road. According to Ihab, he was the only person not on the pavement but was walking very close to it.
While the celebrations were ongoing, three green Israeli border police cars arrived at the location and blocked the crowd’s path. The first car stopped approximately half a metre from Ihab. He saw one of the doors open and within seconds he felt a solid object hit the left side of his face. Initially, Ihab thought that his left eye had been injured. He put his hand on the wound to cover it and then started running away aimlessly. According to Ihab, the shock of the incident and the pain from his injury were so immense that he does not remember what happened immediately afterwards.
The next thing that Ihab remembers was finding himself at a stranger’s front door while she pressed tissues against his wound in an attempt to stop it from bleeding and brought him water. He also remembers seeing several of his friends surrounding him. An ambulance arrived and transferred Ihab to Al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem. There, Ihab underwent several medical examinations and was informed that his skull was fractured, calling for immediate surgery. Ihab was released from the hospital on 24 April. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9546/2014)
As the Occupying Power, Israel must conduct its activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law. As such, Israeli soldiers must respect the right to life of civilians in the OPT at all times. The use of firearms by the Israeli army can only be justified in self-defence against imminent threat of death, serious injury, or to defend someone else from the imminent risk of death.
With respect to the account above, Ihab and the crowd did not pose any threat to the Israeli border police cars, or anyone else in the vicinity. Therefore, the use of rubber bullets constituted unnecessary and excessive use of force against civilians. Furthermore, the fact that the bullet was fired at Ihab’s forehead from a distance of approximately half a metre demonstrates a clear disregard for the preservation of human life. Al-Haq calls on the Israeli authorities to ensure that arbitrary and abusive use of force and firearms against civilians is punished as a criminal offence.