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Playing with fire: IDF to use new weapon on West Bank protests

A new type of sponge-tipped bullet introduced in East Jerusalem last summer has broken arms, fractured faces, destroyed eyesight and killed a teenager. Now a similar projectile is slated for use against Palestinians in the West Bank.

An Israeli policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

An Israeli policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

Following the introduction last summer of a new type of sponge-tipped bullet into the Israel Police’s arsenal, the Israeli army is now set to begin using a similar projectile in order to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank, according to Ynet [Heb]. The new bullets will be phased in during the coming weeks as a pilot, following which they will be distributed among routine army units.

The debut of the new black sponge-tipped bullets in Jerusalem brought with it facial fractures, broken arms, eye loss (predominantly among children) and at least one death. The bullets are a harder version of the blue sponge-tipped bullets previously used by police; made out of heavier material (synthetic rubber), they are far more likely to cause serious injury.

The army officer interviewed in Ynet’s report claimed that the new bullets for the IDF have been purchased from a different manufacturer to those used by the Israel Police, and have undergone more rigorous testing. The officer further asserted that their new sponge-tipped bullets are less dangerous than those deployed in East Jerusalem.

However, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has thrown this claim into doubt. ACRI attorney Anne Suciu stated that the army’s new sponge-tipped bullets will be “at least as hard as those used by the police.” Although they will be blue — the same color as the old, softer bullets — they are weapons of a different grade, as the original blue sponge-tipped bullets have been deemed “ineffective” in dispersing protests.

Suciu further confirmed that the sponge-tipped bullets will eventually replace rubber bullets in the West Bank, a transition that had originally been planned for the end of 2013. Regarding the army officer’s claim to Ynet that they are a “more humane” means of breaking up demonstrations, Suciu explained that although this is technically correct, the irregular use of such projectiles — e.g. firing them at the upper body, as has consistently occurred in East Jerusalem — renders them far more dangerous than they are supposed to be.

Read: Losing sight of the consequences of ‘less-lethal’ weapons

In that vein, ACRI on Thursday issued its second appeal [Heb] in as many months for the police to immediately suspend the use of the black sponge-tipped bullets until their safety had been fully investigated (both letters were written by Suciu). Responding to a request from the Legal Advisor to the Israel Police for all information they hold relating to injuries caused by the black sponge-tipped bullets, ACRI also passed on statistics provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA reports that between June 1st and December 31st 2014, 1,003 Palestinians in East Jerusalem required medical treatment for injuries caused by sponge-tipped bullets. While OCHA refers to “rubber bullets” in its statistics, ACRI clarifies in the letter that they do not know of any use of such projectiles in East Jerusalem, and therefore conclude that the report relates to sponge-tipped bullets (OCHA’s statistics correspond to the date of the introduction of these weapons into the Israel Police’s arsenal).

Israeli police with black sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem, November 12, 2014. (Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police with black sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem, November 12, 2014. (Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Of the 1,003 cases cited, 144 of the injured were evacuated to hospital; at least 47 of those had been shot in the upper part of their body, in contravention of the regulations governing the police’s use of these bullets.

ACRI discovered in March that the black sponge-tipped bullets had been in use for six months before guidelines on their use were issued and training was conducted. However, these measures seem to have done little to reduce the number of serious injuries caused: on Thursday afternoon, the day of ACRI’s letter, yet another Palestinian child was shot in the eye near Shuafat Refugee Camp. The condition of the 10-year-old’s eye is currently unknown.

The introduction of a new weapon into the West Bank is always cause for serious concern, but is even more alarming when its use has already produced such devastating consequences. Although the army officer interviewed by Ynet insisted that the sponge-tipped bullets represent a less-damaging method of crowd control, the wider context of the current situation of army and police violence at West Bank protests cannot be ignored.

From increasing the use of live ammunition to firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters and attacking photojournalists, Israeli security forces have been stepping up their means of suppressing demonstrations. In such an environment, declarations of concern for civilian life (especially when juxtapositioned competitively against that of the police, as the army officer in Ynet’s article has bizarrely done) are questionable.

Furthermore, any IDF claim as to the “less-lethal” nature of their weapons is contingent upon their use in accordance with army regulations, rules that are consistently flouted. As B’Tselem has reported, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and 0.22-caliber live ammo — all supposedly “non-lethal” means of dispersing demonstrations — have killed numerous Palestinians over the years, primarily due to irregular use.

Despite how the army is framing the introduction of their new weapon, we are likely to see a spike in the type of injuries that have so blighted East Jerusalem over the last year.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      If the Palestinians did not continually commit acts of violence, there would be no need for anti-riot measures.

      Reply to Comment
      • phil

        If you were not squatting on their land, there would be no need for them to protest

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          How could this lang belong to “Palestinians” if they were invented in 1964?

          Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            You mean the land they have deeds for, that was stolen from them?

            And how can it belong to Israel, when Israel was invented in 1948?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Israel was established, not invented. Until 1948 EVERYONE who lived in Palestine were called “Palestinians”, as you probably know, but it does not mean that there is such thing as ethnically distinct “Palestinians”.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “How could this lang belong to “Palestinians” if they were invented in 1964”

            Because they were actually invented 27 years before Israelis were invented. But you don’t know that, because you are not even a native.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Oh, so now you do acknowledge that “Palestinians” were invented less than 100 years ago.
            Good, good.

            Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          Arabs have this fiction, once they steal someone’s land it belongs to the Arab Umma forever. Israelis represent the original inhabitants of the area. Arabs were late comers, conquering, killing and plundering the region. The Arab were the archetypical colonists.

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “Arabs have this fiction, once they steal someone’s land it belongs to the Arab Umma forever. Israelis represent the original inhabitants of the area. Arabs were late comers, conquering, killing and plundering the region. The Arab were the archetypical colonists.”

            Sure, cause Jews never did this, neither thousands of years nor decades ago. And Abraham was not a settler. LOL. All we needed was to claim that a deity promised us this land. What a convenient fiction. Another convenient fiction is that we naturally are all descendants of the ancient Hebrews. And the last convenient fiction is that this has any legal relevance since 1919.

            Reply to Comment
          • Whiplash

            Abraham bought his land in Hevron, so did the Jews of the Ottoman Empire and Mandate Palestine. During the Mandate period they bought state land, waste land and land from Arabs at inflated prices but they bought it all the same. The Jews reclaimed waste land and made it bear fruit, they made the desert bloom and industries thrive. They formed farm and workers collectives the envy of socialists and communists worldwide. Their industrial nature made the cities prosper. Jewish hospitals and social services served the people. The Jewish people thrived and they reclaimed their Jewish Hebrew culture.

            In 1947 Jews offered the Arabs peace and two states for two peoples. The Arabs refused and said they wanted it all. The Arabs attempted to eliminate the emerging state of Israel and kill or expel its citizens. They failed in their attempt and fled areas marked for Israeli control. In doing so they abandoned their homes in the belief that the Arab armies of neighbouring Arab countries would do the dirty work for them. It did not work out that way and Israel took over the abandoned land and former states lands.

            Now we could give credit to God for the miracle of Israel or we could surmise that Allah is displeased with his people and unwilling to deprive the Israelis of their birthright. Even the Qua’ran recognizes that Israel belongs to the Jews.

            But then again a Jewish state arose in accordance with international law when the League of Nations set aside a small proportion of the Ottoman Empire for the reclamation of the Jewish state. The Jews built state institutions and we running a democratic government from the time of the declaration of Independence in 1948.

            Reply to Comment
      • C Den

        “If the Palestinians did not continually commit acts of violence”. Sounds like Pieter Botha (South Africa) or George Wallace (Alabama).

        If the Jews had not continually committed acts of violence against the British in the mid 20th century…

        If the Greeks had not continually committed acts of violence against the Ottomans in the early 19th century…

        If the Americans had not continually committed acts of violence against the British in the late 18th century…

        If the Jews had not continually committed acts of violence against the Romans in the first and second century…

        Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        “If the Palestinians did not continually commit acts of violence, there would be no need for anti-riot measures.”

        Shooting children into the face is exactly in which civilized society considered to be an anti-riot measure?

        Reply to Comment
    2. The Trespasser

      Ontopic: I totally agree with the author – Israel should stop wasting money on non-lethal ammunition: regular munitions are ways more effective and much cheaper.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Incitement to murder.

        Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        Nothing new here. The islamophobes and racists hasbarists of the 972 comment section show their true faces.

        Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        “Ontopic: I totally agree with the author – Israel should stop wasting money on non-lethal ammunition: regular munitions are ways more effective and much cheaper.”

        Very close, but no cigar, Trespasser

        If you want to sound even more authentic you should say that bullets are too expensive to waste on them and just torturing or not feeding them would do.

        And don’t to forget to roll the R, like they do in Austria and Bavaria.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      News update: Rawabi, the new Palestinian city built from scratch, is still a ghost town:

      http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31154138

      The Israelis won’t turn the water on. For some reason the Israeli government seems to be opposed to economic development for the Palestinians; maybe that’s what the riots are about.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        You are only interested in propaganda, Mr. Bruce Gould. Hate, not anything else that is altruistic, drives you. everything you copy and paste on this site is eventually shown to be false. BBC-stuff you posted is just one of them!

        “RAMALLAH — The builder of the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank says Israel has agreed to connect Rawabi to its water grid, ending months of costly delays.”

        http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-city-plans-to-move-forward-after-water-deal/

        Reply to Comment
        • Yeah, Right

          Soooo, Ginger points us to an article dated March 1st, in which it is mentioned that Israel has “agreed” to connect the water.

          Note the date: March 1st.

          The water was finally connected two weeks ago.

          Ginger, babe, he is not spouting “propaganda”. Far from it.

          Ya’alon did not want to connect Rawabi to the water supply. Not at all.

          When he finally relented under outside pressure then Silvan Shalom (you know him – Bibi’s new “peace” negotiator) stepped in and refused to allow any water to actually, you know, flow through the pipeline that Ya’alon had grudgingly agreed to connect to that city.

          And it was only after further outside pressure that Shalom relented, and only then because Netanyahu ordered him to relent.

          And even then not one drop of water flowed through that pipe under two weeks ago.

          But because this ongoing saga has finally been resolved a fortnight ago AFTER SEVEN YEARS of Israeli petty bastardry you have the unmitigated gall to claim that Bruce is peddling propaganda.

          Honestly, Ginger, you beggar belief.

          Here’s a prediction: the next time Abbas does something that annoys Netanyahu then that pipeline will be turned off, and when the Americans and the Europeans complain then the Israelis will shout something about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and refuse to turn the water spigot back on again.

          That will be as certain as Night following Day.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      This is unregulated human experimentation. ICC take note. In lab animals there is a measure: the Lethal Dose-50 or LD50–the dose at which 50% die from the experimental “treatment.” Similarly, LD-40, LD-30, etc. You couldn’t get this experiment past an IRB if the subjects were mice. If they were primates, you’d have mass protests outside the lab and the university would lose its accreditation.

      “they will be blue — the same color as the old, softer bullets”: same old deceit and deception.

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        Yet another rambling mumbo jumbo from Brian Ben David T. Dekkers.

        Since Israel was founded in 1948, the country has set itself the goal of becoming a light unto the nations. In the early years of the state, despite austerity rationing, the Israeli government founded MASHAV, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Center for International Cooperation, as a vehicle to share Israel’s creative solutions with the rest of the developing world.

        Israel remains true to that vision and every year, with little fanfare, and sometimes very little press attention, Israelis work long hours to find solutions and offer relief to some of the most pressing problems of our times.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          Even you yourself recognizes now that you are full of mumbo jumbo. Kudos! Continue using multiple identities on this site, Brian Ben David T. Dekkers. No one really cares. We just want to let you know that we know what you are doing…. just so you know, moron.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I think these two post are what’s known as “a dead cat bounce.”

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Indeed, Brian alias “Ben” alias “David T”. alias “Dekkers”. Those first two posts of yours are perfect examples of what’s known as “dead cat bounce”. First you post as “Ben”, then you respond to yourself as “David T”. But here is what is new and baffling: it seems that you have moved on from (a) using Ben to defend David T. and vice versa, to (b) using David T. to attack Ben and make Ben look stupid? Oh dear…

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’re being overtly psychopathic (again). Look it up. Falsely accusing others of doing what secretly you yourself are doing is psychopathic. Time to disengage. See ya.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            You got confused in your psychotic games and inadvertently cornered and exposed yourself and now you want to “disengage”?! Excuse me, Brian Ben David T. Dekkers, YOU want to “disengage”? Lol…. what a moron!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Wow the very definition of a troll. And so shameless. Psychopaths never change. You might have tried to be less obviously stupid about it but some crooks just are that way. Who knows what half-baked scheme you had in mind posing as David but it’s one of your all time stupider moves and that’s saying a lot. It hasn’t turned out very well has it? Ben is attacking Ben to make Ben look stupid? Oh, yeah, sure, GrossKatze, just brilliant! You’re a veritable trolling genius!

            What great ambassadors for Israel you and your buddy are. LOL! Your buddy has the gay bashing/self-hating nauseating sexual angle covered and you have the devious but stupid psychopathic troll angle covered. Congratulations on your comprehensive efforts. Israel must be so proud!

            It’s time not only to disengage but to lock the door, take out a restraining order and first make sure my wallet is safe! LOL!

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            The evidence against you, Brian alias “Ben”, alias “David T.” alias “Dekkers”, on this site is overwhelming. Let us start with this: http://972mag.com/high-court-okays-plan-to-raze-arab-village-build-jewish-one-in-its-place/106637/. Scroll down to the last comments and see how Brian is talking to himself as both “Ben” and “David T/” and using “David T.” to defend “Ben” and vice versa. Compare that to what is happening on this thread; “Ben” and “David T.” are at each other’s throat, with “Ben” trying too hard to separate “themselves” from “David T.”! Oh dear…..

            You are confused, moron. Time to take you meds and maybe come back to your senses.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Yeah, yeah, yeah…LOL! You lie almost constantly, as easily as others breathe. It’s really a sight to see, someone so brazenly dishonest. As I said, you two are great ambassadors!

            Reply to Comment
    5. Femm

      If the Palestinians did not first show kindness to allow German holocaust survivors refuge on their land, they would never have these events. I truly feel bad for the Palestinian people and the more intelligent crowd of Israel that protests these atrocities.

      Reply to Comment
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