13 May 08: Military Police to investigate firing of rubber-coated steel bullet at unarmed demonstrator in Bil'in
Following a letter from B'Tselem, the Military Police has opened an investigation into an incident that took place on 14 March, in which an army officer fired a rubber-coated steel bullet at a demonstrator in the village of Bil'in, wounding him.
The incident, one of a number of cases of gunfire during the demonstration, was filmed on two video cameras. The footage shows that an officer holding the rank of second lieutenant fired from very close range at a demonstrator who was not armed, was not throwing stones, did not endanger the security forces, and did not do anything that justified the use of force against him. The demonstrator was taken to Asaf Harofe Hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet, which had penetrated his thigh.
Video footage from the incident.
It is clear from the video footage that the shooter was no more than a few meters from the demonstrator when he fired. Army regulations prohibit the use of rubber-coated bullets at a distance of under forty meters, in that this ammunition might be lethal at less than that distance.
In a statement to Ha'aretz regardingthe incident, the IDF Spokesperson said that, “The means were only used in accordance with the commands and at the range permitted, and only at persons disturbing the peace.” The video shows that, in the minutes preceding the officer's gunfire, the demonstrator had not thrown stones or clashed with soldiers. As the IDF Spokesperson's statement is totally inconsistent with the facts of the case, there is cause for grave suspicion that security forces filed false reports of their activity.
In its request to the Judge Advocate General's Office to open a Military Police investigation, B'Tselem emphasized the need to investigate both the responsibility of senior officers in the field for giving illegal orders and their involvement in submitting false reports to their superiors.
Violence and illegal shooting by security forces (the IDF and Border Police) are not rare in the weekly demonstrations in the village of Bil'in. In recent days, an indictment for causing grievous injury was filed against a border policeman who had shot and wounded an Israeli in a demonstration in Bil'in in August 2006.
Recently, the Department for the Investigation of Police informed B'Tselem that it had decided not to indict a border policeman who had fired at a Palestinian demonstrator a few meters from him at a demonstration in the village in May 2007.
According to testimonies given to B'Tselem and the media, in recent months, Palestinian, Israeli, and foreign demonstrators have been wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets in Bil'in. One of them, a Japanese national, lost his sight in one eye as a result. An independent video cameraman and a cameraman for Reuters were also wounded during this period.