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Soldiers disperse stone-throwing with “rubber” bullets, costing 14-year-old onlooker his eye

On Friday, 9 April 2021, at around 1:00 P.M., about 20 children and teens threw stones at some eight soldiers in the neighborhood of Bab a-Zawiya in Hebron. The soldiers fired rubber-coat...
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Soldiers disperse stone-throwing with “rubber” bullets, costing 14-year-old onlooker his eye

On Friday, 9 April 2021, at around 1:00 P.M., about 20 children and teens threw stones at some eight soldiers in the neighborhood of Bab a-Zawiya in Hebron. The soldiers fired rubber-coated metal bullets at them. On a nearby street, about 50 meters away from the soldiers, ‘Iz a-Din al-Batsh (14) and his cousin, ‘Abd al-Karim al-Batsh (13) were working at a greengrocer’s owned by M.A. 

The store’s security camera footage shows ‘Iz a-Din and his cousin standing near the cash register at around 2:00 P.M, when ‘Iz a-Din got hit in the eye by a “rubber” bullet fired by a soldier. The store owner took the boy to the Alia Government Hospital in the city. About five hours later, he was taken to the Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint by family members, who demanded the soldiers call an ambulance to take him for treatment in Israel. The soldiers refused and told the family to go to the Bethlehem checkpoint, where they said an ambulance would be waiting. ‘Iz a-Din was ultimately taken from the Bethlehem checkpoint to St. John Hospital in Jerusalem, but only after midnight. The next day, his eye was surgically removed. He was discharged two days later. 

‘Iz a-Din al-Batsh in the greengrocer’s store where he was working when he was hit. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem, 26 April 2021

In a testimony given to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari by ‘Iz a-Din’s father, Nidal al-Batsh (44) who works as a plumber, he recounted what happened next:

On Friday, 9 April 2021, I went to work as usual with my cousin, ‘Abd al-Karim al-Batsh. After noon prayers, some clashes started between kids and soldiers on the road near the shop. ‘Abd al-Karim and I were selling to customers and watching what was going on between the soldiers and the kids who were throwing the stones. The military fired “rubber” bullets. 

The store owner, M.A., was arranging the produce. Then a friend of his came by and M.A. went into another room with him and asked us to keep an eye on the store and sell to any customers that came. I stayed with ‘Abd al-Karim. We sold to customers and watched the soldiers chasing the kids. We saw about five soldiers near the Clock Square in front of the store. Suddenly, I felt something hit my eye and I fell down on the floor, behind the scales.  My right eye hurt and it was bleeding. I managed to get up and run into the room where M.A. was sitting with his friend. He came running over to me and took me to Alia Government Hospital in a car. I cried and screamed from the pain and because I was scared of losing my eye. They gave me a CT scan at the hospital and bandaged my eye.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 19 April 2021, ‘Abd al-Karim al-Batsh recounted:

After the store owner asked us to keep an eye on the store, he went into a room at the back with his friend. A customer came, and ‘Iz a-Din sold him some vegetables. I stayed standing in the doorway, looking at the clashes. There were about five soldiers at the Clock Square, about 50 meters away from the store.

As soon as the customer left the store, I heard a shot. I ran into the store and saw ‘Iz a-Din falling down on the floor. I thought he was hiding behind the scales, but a minute later he ran after me, and I saw his right eye was bleeding. He called out to M.A., crying and shouting, “My eye, my eye.” M. picked him up and put him in his friend’s car, and they drove away. Later, I heard that he had been transferred to Alia Government Hospital. I was in shock and was really scared after seeing ‘Iz a-Din and the blood coming out of his eye. It was a shocking sight. I can’t forget it. 

The hospital wanted to move al-Batsh to the St. John Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem, but his transfer was delayed because the Palestinian Authority had not made arrangements for financial coverage. After about five hours, ‘Iz a-Din’s family decided to take him to the Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint and demand the soldiers evacuate him for treatment in Israel. The officers at the checkpoint refused to call an ambulance and told the family to leave. One of them told ‘Iz a-Din’s father that an ambulance would wait for them at the Bethlehem checkpoint. The family drove to the Bethlehem checkpoint and found no ambulance waiting. 

In a testimony given to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari by ‘Iz a-Din’s father, Nidal al-Batsh (44) who works as a plumber, he recounted what happened next:

My nephews drove ‘Iz a-Din to the Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint, and I drove behind them. By the time I got there, they had already crossed the checkpoint. We demanded the soldiers call an officer so we could talk to him. A few minutes later, a military officer and a Civil Administration officer came. I told them what happened to my son and demanded they evacuate him for treatment in Israel, because they were responsible for his injury. The officer refused. I sat with ‘Iz a-Din on the side of the road and told them we would not leave until an ambulance came to take him for treatment in Israel. A little while later, a Magen David Adom [Israeli] ambulance came and refused to evacuate ‘Iz a-Din or treat him. I insisted they evacuate my son for treatment, and about half an hour later, on a-Shuhada St., near the checkpoint, the Civil Administration officer told me thatbcoordination had been made and my son could come with his mother to the Bethlehem checkpoint (300) and get into an ambulance that would be waiting to take him to hospital. Because my wife is pregnant, I preferred to go with ‘Iz a-Din myself. I went with him to the checkpoint together with M.A. and my brother, ‘Abd al-Qader. By the time we got there, it was already about 9:30 P.M. ‘Iz a-Din was crying from the pain. He said he was scared of losing his eye. It was really hard to see him. It ripped my heart apart. I almost died from worry and fear he’d lose his eye. The soldiers at the checkpoint said there was no coordination to transfer my son for treatment. We waited there for three hours, and only then did we get permission from the Civil Administration for ‘Iz a-Din to go in with his uncle, who has a permit to enter Israel. 

I was very frustrated that they wouldn’t let me go with my son, in his condition. My brother told me on the phone there was no ambulance waiting to take them. He said a soldier at the checkpoint told him to call an ambulance to come take the child, but that we would have to pay. We agreed, and then an Israeli ambulance came and took him to the St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. We didn’t end up paying for the ambulance. 

'Iz a-Din al-Batsh in his yard. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem, 13 April 2021

‘Iz a-Din further stated in his testimony:

We waited for an Israeli ambulance, which came after a soldier at the checkpoint called for it. It took us to the St. John Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem. When we got there, we waited again, for about two hours, on a chair in the hallway, because we didn’t have a referral from the Palestinian Authority. In the end, they had me sleep in a room. They only operated the next day, in the early afternoon. The doctors told me I’d lost my right eye. I was discharged from the hospital on Sunday and went home with my uncle. 

I don’t know how I’ll go on with my life after losing my eye. I feel bad, and it hurts a lot. I’m embarrassed to see my friends like this. I don’t know why the soldiers shot me. I didn’t do anything to them.

 

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