16-year-old Omar Talal Mohammad Assi, five-year-old Khaled Akram Khaled Malalha, and 16-year-old Ashraf Mahmoud Najeeb Farahti have all lost vision in at least one eye after Israeli forces attacked them. (Photos: Courtesy of the Assi, Malalha, and Farahti families)
Ramallah, July 20, 2023—Three Palestinian children have suffered critical eye injuries at the hands of Israeli forces this year, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine.
Omar Talal Mohammad Assi, 16, was hiding in a girls’ school in his home village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank around 4 p.m. on April 24 when Israeli forces threw a stun grenade inside the school where it exploded in Omar’s face, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Omar fled to the school, which was not in session, with other Palestinian boys to escape confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian residents.
Israeli soldiers entered the village in order to confiscate a wastewater vehicle prompting Palestinian residents to confront them.
Palestinian residents carried Omar to a private car that brought him to an ambulance that transferred him to An-Najah Hospital in Nablus. Doctors performed surgery to stop the bleeding and remove shrapnel from Omar’s eyes and face. Omar cannot see at all out of his right eye, and the vision from his left eye is blurry.
“The excessive use of force and improper use of crowd control weapons against children must end immediately,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Israeli soldiers who utilize crowd control weapons to maim Palestinian children or aim them at children’s heads and upper bodies at close range must be held accountable for their actions.”
Across the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces employ rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters, water cannons, stun and sound grenades, and other supposedly ‘non-lethal’ crowd-control weapons to quash protests. While Israeli military regulations restrict the parameters and manner of their use, the excessive and improper use of crowd control weapons can cause serious injury, permanent disability or even death, particularly in children.
At least two other Palestinian children have suffered critical eye injuries from weapons fired by Israeli forces this year, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
Around 6 p.m. on June 23, five-year-old Khaled Akram Khaled Malalha was riding in the backseat of his father’s car in the village of Bizariya, located 13 kilometers (eight miles) north of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, on the way to a wedding when the road was blocked by confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians, according to documentation collected by DCIP. The car stopped next to a Palestinian ambulance to wait for the road to clear, and about five minutes later, Israeli forces fired live ammunition at the car, which struck Khaled in the left eye. Paramedics immediately provided aid to Khaled and transferred him to An-Najah Hospital in Nablus. Later that night, Khaled was transferred to Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel, where doctors confirmed that Khaled permanently lost his left eye.
Israeli special forces shot 16-year-old Ashraf Mahmoud Najeeb Farahti in the right eye around 3 p.m. on March 16 in Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Ashraf was hiding behind a Palestinian car as undercover Israeli special forces fired heavily and indiscriminately at Palestinians. He was struck in the right eye from a distance of about 20 meters (66 feet). A private vehicle transported Ashraf to Al-Razi Hospital in Jenin, where doctors x-rayed his head and learned that the bullet had fragmented inside his head. Later that night, Ashraf was transferred to Al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah, where he remains unconscious in the intensive care unit.
Two private cars entered Abu Baker street in the center of Jenin around 3 p.m., and without warning, at least four undercover Israeli special forces dressed in plain clothes exited the cars and began firing live ammunition towards two young Palestinians walking across from Nimer Mall on Abu Baker street. Israeli special forces shot one in the head and the other in the back, and continued chasing and firing upon the one shot in the back. During this case, Israeli forces shot and killed 14-year-old Omar Mohammad Omar Awadin, who was riding his bike when Israeli forces shot him in the back.
The Washington Post investigated the March 16 Israeli military incursion into Jenin and used graphics and videos to reconstruct the moments leading up to Omar’s killing by Israeli special forces. The report confirmed that Israeli special forces shot Omar in the back while he was riding his bike, killing him.
Undercover Israeli special forces, also known as musta’abarin in Arabic, pose as Palestinians to infiltrate and carry out covert operations in Palestinian cities. These undercover Israeli special forces collect intelligence, infiltrate protests, and carry out black operations, targeted killings and assassinations.
Last year, Safi Ahmad Mohammad Jawabra, 11, was shot by Israeli forces in the head above his left eye with a rubber-coated metal bullet around 10 a.m. on May 29, 2022 at the entrance to Al-Arroub refugee camp, near Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Safi was walking home from school after completing his final exam in math when an Israeli soldier shot him in the head unexpectedly and without warning. While running away, another group of Israeli soldiers around 50 meters (164 feet) away fired tear gas canisters in front of Safi. Safi’s left eye now has about 10 percent functionality, according to information gathered by DCIP.
In a 2013 report, human rights group B’Tselem noted that the Israeli military’s regulations clearly state that rubber-coated metal bullets “may not be fired at women or children.”
The regulations also require that rubber-coated metal bullets only be fired at the legs, not upper bodies, of “inciters, key disrupters of order or individuals endangering the well-being of a soldier or another individual.” Military regulations further stipulate that a soldier must be at least 50-60 meters (165-195 feet) away from their target when he or she shoots rubber-coated metal bullets.