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Palestinian protester falls on the ground after he was injured during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Jalazun refugee camp, 31 Jan. 2014. In the Background: the settlement of Beit El. Photo by Abbas Momani, Getty Images
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Life in the shadow of the settlement of Beit El: Heightened presence of the Israeli military in al-Jalazun R.C. leads to clashes and to firing at Palestinian youths

 

Al-Jalazun Refugee Camp is north of Ramallah and has a population of about 14,000, including some 5,000 minors. In 1977 the settlement of Beit El was established close to the camp, leading to the permanent presence of soldiers in the area, in observation towers and military patrols along the nearby road and in the area between the camp and the settlement.

Confrontations erupt regularly between the soldiers and residents of the camp, particularly youths and young men. The clashes mainly take place at the entrance to the camp, close to the schools. During these confrontations, the military fires crowd control weapons, and in some cases also uses live ammunition. Over the past five years, soldiers have entered the camp once a week on average. During this period, about 160 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli troops (according to figures provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA); and six, including four minors, have been killed by Israeli security forces.

Over the past few months, B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad has collected testimonies from residents of the camp who were injured in the clashes. They describe their lives since they were injured: the physical difficulties they face; limited employment options; medical treatments; and the impact of their injuries on their emotional state.

As B’Tselem has previously shown, no one will be held to account for these injuries: neither the security forces on the ground nor the senior officers responsible for the orders and the open fire regulations. Likewise, in the civil sphere, Israel has ensured itself virtually complete immunity from paying damages to victims, by expanding the legal exemption and mounting procedural obstacles that prevent Palestinians from filing civil claims for damages. Israel thereby leaves injured Palestinians without financial compensation, without recognition of the damages they have sustained, and without the prosecution of those responsible. By so doing, it facilitates the ongoing use of live and sometimes lethal fire, which constitutes a critical component in Israel’s ability to maintain its violent control over millions of Palestinians.

Karim Nakhleh, now 11 years old, was injured on 3 December 2014

At about 4:00 P.M. on 3 December 2014, clashes were underway at the entrance to al-Jalazun R.C.: Palestinian teenagers and young men were throwing stones; soldiers and Border Police fired rubber-coated metal bullets at them. Karim Nakhleh, who lives in the camp, was eight years old at the time. He was hiding behind a disused ambulance that was parked by a car repair shop near the entrance to the camp. When he stood up to see what was going on, a soldier fired a rubber-coated metal bullet at his head. Some teenagers who were on the scene took Nakhleh to a private car, and he was driven to the camp’s medical clinic, where he was given first aid. His father picked him up from there, took him home, and then to hospital in Ramallah. At the hospital, Nakhleh underwent surgery to remove the rubber-coated metal bullet that was lodged in his head. He was discharged after four days in hospital.

In testimony he gave on 3 January 2018, he described his life since that day:

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Karim Nakhleh. Photo by B'Tselem, 21.2.18

After I was injured, I stayed home. I didn’t go out. I didn’t go to school, and I missed the finals of the first trimester. I also missed a lot of school in the second trimester because I had to go for neurological tests at the hospital. I started to get dizzy and have headaches every day, so I was afraid to go out to the street or play with other children, and I stayed inside. I only felt better when I slept. For the first three months after the injury, it felt like I had a rattle inside my head. The doctor kept telling me, “It’s okay. It’s just because of the injury and it’ll go away in time.”

For a long time I was in a kind of state of shock and anxiety. I began to have leg pain and muscle cramps. My thoughts were all over the place and I couldn’t concentrate. Often I would remember the shooting and have panic attacks. I was afraid to go to sleep because I had nightmares. I slept in my parents’ room for at least a year and half after the injury. Even now, from time to time I have a panic attack and then I’m afraid to sleep on my own, so I go to my parents’ bedroom.

Since the injury I’ve become very short-tempered. I get mad about the smallest things. I argue with my brothers and with my neighborhood friends. I don’t like going to school as much as I used to and my grades have gone down, even though my father and mother try very hard to help me with my schoolwork. Before the injury my average grade was about 80, but now it’s fallen to around 60. I used to like to play soccer, but I hardly ever play now. When I try to, I’m scared whenever anything touches my head. I even start to panic and shake if a shadow passes by my head.

It bothers me when I hear people talking about someone who’s been injured by soldiers. When they do, I yell at them to shut up or change the subject, or else I get up and walk away. When there are demonstrations near the school I get really nervous and I want to run home. I’m scared that the same thing will happen again.

I’m in the sixth grade now. Sometimes I ask myself, why me? I didn’t do anything wrong. What did I do that they’d shoot me? Why can’t I go outside and play like other children, without panicking and without getting so dizzy or tired?

Karim’s father, Muhammad Nakhleh, 45, spoke with B’Tselem on 7 February 2018 and described the impact the injuries have had on his son’s life:

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Muhammad Nakhleh. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 28 March 2018

My son is now phobic about anything that comes near his head. He can’t stand it when people come close to him, even when he’s playing with other kids in the neighborhood. He gets very anxious when he sees blood or if someone is injured, even if it’s just an accident. If he sees something like that on television or on the internet, he turns his head away and asks me to turn it off. After he was injured he didn’t want to go anywhere, and just wanted to stay shut up at home. That had an impact on the whole family. Slowly we helped him to adjust. We were worried that his emotional state might get worse. We asked his friends to spend time with him at our home. He used to get scared a lot, particularly at night, and he was afraid to sleep in his own bedroom. He slept in our room for over a year and a half.

For the past two years, he’s wanted to be treated like an adult and he gets very angry when people treat him like a child. He gets irritated easily and responds violently when his brothers or sister ask him to do something. Sometimes he just loses it; he gets all mad and furious for a few minutes, and sometimes he hits himself in the head. Whenever this happens I try to contain his anger, calm him down, and talk to him like an adult.

Fadi Nakhleh, is a 34-year-old taxi driver. A married and father of three, he was injured on 23 November 2013:

At about 5:00 P.M. on 23 November 2013, clashes began between residents of al-Jalazun R.C. and soldiers, near the entrance to the camp and inside the camp. At about 5:30 P.M., Fadi Nakhleh – then 30 years old, a taxi driver who lives in the camp – returned to al-Jalazun R.C. with passengers. Because of the clashes, Nakhleh dropped off his passengers, parked his taxi in the western section of the camp, far away from the site of the clashes, and began walking home. A soldier who was in the area fired live ammunition at him, hitting him in the right knee. Youths on the scene took him to the medical clinic in the camp, where he received first aid. He was then taken by ambulance to hospital in Ramallah. The ambulance was forced to take a detour to reach Ramallah. At the hospital, the bullet was found to have had injured a nerve and veins in Nakhleh’s knee and broken the bone. Shrapnel was also found in his stomach. He underwent surgery to remove the shrapnel and his leg was placed in a cast. He was discharged from hospital after 12 days. Since then he has suffered from pain in his leg, has trouble walking, and has been forced to confine himself to transporting passengers within the camp.

 

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Fadi Nakhleh. Photo by B'Tselem, 27 Feb. 2018

In testimony taken on 11 February 2018 by B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Nakhleh described his life since his injury:

After I was discharged from hospital, I spent about a week in bed. Someone had to help me to go to the bathroom and I needed to use a wheelchair. I used a wheelchair for about two months, and then I used a walker for about three months. After that, I used crutches for around eighteen months until I was able to put my foot down on the ground. The injury made my right leg shorter than my left and I limp. The injury completely changed my life. For the first three years I couldn’t work at all and my father had to sell my taxi. My father and brothers helped me out financially, and I also got 1,200 shekels a month from the Palestinian Injured Persons Office. I was classed as 40 percent disabled. I felt totally dependent on others.

I had dreamt of saving up enough money to find a house outside the camp so that my family and I could start a new life. But that dream went up in smoke. The disability allowance I get barely covers food for the family. For a whole year I had to go three times a week for rehabilitation at the Abu Raya Center Orthopedic Center in Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority paid for the treatment, but not for the trips there and back, which were expensive. I wasn’t able to use public transportation, so I had to take a taxi and pay 30 shekels each time. About eighteen months ago I began to work again as a taxi driver, but only inside the camp, because that’s easier than driving the inter-city taxis, which are bigger vehicles, like vans. I earn barely 1,500 shekels a month, on top of the allowance I receive from the Palestinian Injured Persons’ Office. I can’t even think about going out to a restaurant or park or on a trip.

Because I didn’t go outside much, except for medical treatment, and because my leg is delicate, I started to become afraid of contact with other people. If someone walks by me, I imagine that they’re about to tread on my foot and I push them away from me. I try not to do it, but I can’t help myself. I’ve become very irritable and short-tempered and sometimes I shout at my wife, children, or brothers. I had once planned to move my children from the school in the camp to a private school in the nearby village of Jifna, but I can’t do that now. I used to buy them new clothes very two or three months and anything else they wanted. Now I can barely manage to buy them clothes twice a year, for the holidays. When I was in pain after the injury, I saw my father and children crying about me. That really hurt me. When the Israeli soldier decided to shoot me, and caused all this suffering and harm, all I was doing was going home from work. He shattered my hopes and dreams. Like everyone else in a refugee camp, my dreams were simple: to buy a plot of land outside the camp and build a small house for me and my family. I dreamt that my children would be able to go to private schools and that their lives would be different from our hard life in the refugee camps, which is a life of suffering, poverty, misery, and backwardness. I dreamt that they would have happy and comfortable lives like children do elsewhere in the world.

Jihad Masri, 24, was injured on 7 February 2014

On 7 February 2014, clashes erupted near the entrance to al-Jalazun R.C., protesting the killing of Muhammad Mubarak, a 20-year-old resident of the camp who had been shot by soldiers on 29 January 2014 near ‘Ein Siniya, to the north of the camp. During the clashes residents burned tires and blocked the road. Soldiers and Border Police, who were a few dozen meters away from the protestors, fired teargas canisters and live ammunition. Jihad Masri, a resident of the camp, was 20 years old at the time. He was hit in the waist by live ammunition a Border Police officer fired. Masri was evacuated to hospital, where the bullet was found to have torn his intestines and damaged nerves in his left leg. He also had internal hemorrhaging. Masri underwent surgery. He was discharged two weeks later. He was still on painkillers and medication for his digestive system and had to go to the hospital for checkups.

On 7 April 2014 soldiers came to Masri’s home, handcuffed him, and placed him under detention in Beit El. The ISA interrogated him, and alleged that he had thrown stones. He was transferred to Ofer Prison and then to the prison infirmary in Ramle Prison, where he was shackled to his bed. After two days at the infirmary he was taken back to Ofer Prison, where he was kept for three and a half months. He was released under the terms of a plea bargain.

In testimony taken on 13 February 2018, Masri stated:

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Jihad Masri. Photo by B'Tselem, 21 Feb. 2018

In prison, the other prisoners looked after me because of my poor health. The worst part was when I was transferred in the “busta,” the vehicle they use to take prisoners to court. That happened about once a week. They’d take me at 4:00 or 5:00 o’clock in the morning, with both hands and legs in restraints, and put me on a bus full of prisoners. Then they’d take us to the Ramle assembly point, where they kept locked up all day in the waiting room. It’s a small room, just a few square meters, more like a police van. The toilets were inside the room and it was filthy and gross and really stank. Sometimes they’d put up to eight prisoners in the room. We could hardly find a mattress to lie down on.

I had some bad times in prison, too, particularly because my wound was still fresh. Every time I asked for medicine from the prison physician, he’d just give me paracetamol or tell me to get a glass of water. In the end I stopped going to him. The food was also torture for me. I needed healthy food, and they didn’t have that at the prison. So I ate healthier things that I bought at the canteen, such as milk, tuna fish, fruit, and soups.

Before I was injured I was into sports. I was a weightlifter. I took part in competitions at the sports club in al-Jalazun R.C. and those were some of the finest days of my life. I even won trophies and medals. After the injury I lost all that. I used to weigh 105 kg, but after the injury, my weight dropped to 73 kg. I suffer from tingling in my left thigh, and this makes it hard for me to move about freely or to walk for long distances. I used to love hiking, but now I don’t dare walk more than 200 or 300 meters, because then the pain gets worse and I start limping. Running is totally out of the question. But what I miss most is the weightlifting. I don’t feel that there’s any chance that I’ll be able to get back to being what I was like before. I used to have dreams of winning a championship, but those dreams are gone forever.

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Jihad Masri before his injury. photo by courtesy of the witness.

I have to find a job that I can do in my condition and doesn’t demand too much physical effort, because that affects my health. For example, I couldn’t go back to my job with my father at the supermarket, because there you have to move around a lot, stand for long periods of time, and lift heavy stuff. Those are all things that I can’t do. Because our family’s financial situation is good, my father is supporting me for now. When he sees me looking for work, he tells me to rest for now and says I don’t need to go back to work yet. But I can’t do that: I want to be like everyone else, to work, build my future, and start a family. That’s why I didn’t stop looking for work. Three months ago I found a job in a car agency in Ramallah. It’s office work, working with clients, and it doesn’t require too much physical effort. The agency owner is considerate. He understands my situation and doesn’t ask me to do things that are too hard for me. But the salary doesn’t cover anything. It barely pays for my travel, cigarettes, and sandwiches at work. If I want to get married, start a family, and make some of my dreams come true – like buying a car and building or buying an apartment – then there’s no way I can do that on 2,000 shekels a month. If it wasn’t for the money my father gives me, I’d be deep in debt. I’m tense, anxious, and frustrated all the time. I feel like I have no prospects and that there’s no chance that I’ll be able to get better, physically or emotionally.

Malek Ghawanmah, 19, was injured on 13 March 2015

At about 1:00 P.M. on 13 March 2015, a demonstration was held near the entrance to al-Jalazun R.C. to protest the construction of a wall along the western boundary of the nearby settlement of Beit El. During the demonstration, some of the youths used slingshots to throw stones at soldiers. The soldiers threw stun grenades and fired teargas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at the youths. One youth threw a Molotov cocktail that did not hit anyone. In response, the soldiers began to fire live ammunition. Malek Ghawanmah, who was 17 at the time, was hit in the right leg while he was at a spot near the intersection to the south of the camp. He was evacuated to hospital in Ramallah, where he underwent surgery on his leg. He was discharged about a week later, after platinum plates had been inserted in his leg and it had been placed in a cast. However, his condition deteriorated and he underwent two further operations.

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Malek Ghawanmah. Photo by B'Tselem, 21 Feb. 2018

In testimony taken on 2 January 2018, he said:

I’ve been at home since the injury. I can’t work like I used to or move around freely. I sometimes still need to use crutches.

Before I was injured I used to like skateboarding, playing with my friends, and hunting birds with them in open areas, using nets. I can’t do that now. I wanted to work and make money, build my own home, find someone to marry, and start a family like other young men. But I can’t do that stuff now. I can hardly manage to walk around the neighborhood and go to the grocery store. There’s no rehabilitation clinic here in the camp, or somewhere where I could learn alternative skills and capabilities. It’s difficult and expensive to go to Ramallah and my father barely makes ends meet. When it’s cold my leg really hurts. I also suffer from tingling sensations and I can’t go out at all when it’s cold.

About six months ago, I found a job cleaning buildings in the city of a-Rawabi. But I only worked for 20 days and then I had to quit because I had leg cramps and sometimes they made me fall down. I’d rest a bit and then go back to work, but sometimes they lasted a few hours and I had to go home. My boss turned a blind eye a few times but it happened almost every day and in the end he couldn’t accept it. Now I sit at home, bored and tired. I keep to myself and I’m irritable toward my brothers and sisters, and sometimes even toward my parents, who encourage me to go out and walk around a bit because I make things so tense at home.

Two months ago I found another job at al-Binar, a company in Ramallah that makes dairy products. But once again I couldn’t cope because of the pain and cramps and I had to quit. Now I’m unemployed again. I have nowhere to go. There’s only an internet café with electronic games in the camp. God knows what will become of me.

Ibrahim Abu ‘Ukah, 25, was injured on 8 May 2015

At about 2:00 P.M. on 8 May 2015, there several dozen residents who were throwing stones clashed with soldiers and Border Police near the schools outside the camp. Ibrahim Abu ‘Ukah, a resident of the camp who was 22 at the time, was hit in the neck by a rubber-coated metal bullet a soldier fired at him. Several youths took him to an ambulance that came to meet them outside the camp and took Abu ‘Ukah to hospital in Ramallah. He underwent surgery to remove the bullet from his neck. He was discharged a week later, but the physicians warned him to avoid strenuous work, since this could rupture the arteries and tendons in his neck.

In testimony taken on 8 February 2018, ‘Ukah stated:

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Ibrahim Abu ‘Ukah. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 27.3.18

After my time in hospital I stayed at home and couldn’t work, even though I needed to help provide for the family. There are eight of us in the family, and no one works apart from me. Before the injury I worked in construction and in other hard physical work. Afterwards being cooped up at home felt like being in prison, and I couldn’t stand it. Luckily my friends used to come every so often to take me out and spend time with me.

Sometimes, when I overdo it, I can feel the stitches inside my body stretching and it hurts. The thing that scares me most is that they might come apart and then something bad might happen to me. Although I’m not in pain any more, I’ve suffered from psychological distress since the injury. When I talk to people I try to turn my head so that they won’t see the deformation in my neck. I’m a young man and like anyone else I want to find a partner and get married. My injury and scars damage my self-confidence, but I hope that I’ll manage to find a partner even so. I’d like to have cosmetic surgery, but experts told me that it costs thousands of dollars and my income is very limited. Where will I get that kind of money? I try not to think about it.

I only went back to work four months ago. I found a job at a clothing store, but I barely make 1,800 shekels. That’s not enough for anything, but I don’t really have any other options. I can’t go back to the hard work I did before the injury, such as construction.