Survivors of Israeli live fire speak about Israel's 'kneecapping' practice of shooting youth in their lower limbs.
Bethlehem, occupied West Bank - In the Dheisheh refugee camp, it is common to see Palestinian teenagers with deep scars dotting the length of their legs, while posters and murals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces adorn the concrete walls - testaments to a disturbing reality of routine Israeli violence in the camp.
International law prohibits the use of live ammunition on civilians, except as a last resort during an imminent threat of life. However, Israeli soldiers freely fire live bullets at Palestinians during confrontations or military raids.
Both Palestinian and Israeli rights groups have noted that Israel's excessive use of force on Palestinians has caused scores of permanent and temporary disabilities in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Several residents in the Dheisheh camp have also recently been killed, the latest of whom was 21-year-old Raed al-Salhi, who was shot multiple times during an Israeli army raid last month. He succumbed to his wounds on September 3 at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem almost a month later.
The Bethlehem-based Palestinian NGO Badil reported a significant increase in Palestinian injuries in the refugee camps last year, the majority of which were caused by live ammunition. Most of the gunshot wounds were directed at the lower limbs of the youth in the camps, now commonly referred to as "kneecapping".
Residents of the Dheisheh camp say that an Israeli army commander, who the youth in Dheisheh refer to as "Captain Nidal", has been threatening to intentionally disable Palestinians in the camp. "I will make half of you disabled and let the other half push the wheelchairs," he has been reported as saying.
Badil underscored that the threats indicate that incidents of "kneecapping" are "not accidental or isolated". But instead "result from a systematic Israeli military policy aimed at suppressing resistance, terrorising Palestinian youth, and permanently injuring them and/or causing significant damage to their physical and mental well-being".
Issa al-Mu'ti, 15: "I could not feel my legs - all I saw was blood"
I was 12. It was 2015. Clashes erupted with Israeli soldiers at the northern entrance of Bethlehem. I was at home with my family when I was notified that my younger brother had gone to participate in the clashes.
I was scared for him. He shouldn't have gone. I decided to go and find him and drag him back to the camp.
When I arrived, the clashes were ongoing. The Israelis were shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. But still, I continued searching for my brother. Suddenly, the soldiers opened up with live ammunition. I fell to the ground. I couldn't get up or move my legs. I looked around for help and saw the soldiers shooting at Palestinians who were running away.
An Israeli police dog began to attack me, biting my leg. I tried to fight it off, but then the soldiers came. They dragged me across the pavement and beat me, even kicked my legs. They didn't realise I was injured. When they saw my wounds, their faces twisted into shock, and they ran away from me.
I immediately looked down. My legs looked so scary. I couldn't feel anything - all I saw was blood. I found out later that I had been hit with two expanding bullets in each leg. The use of these bullets is illegal under international law.
The soldiers spent some time staring at me from afar. I could tell they were stunned and didn't know what to do. Eventually, I was brought to the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. I spent three months there, almost a month of which I was handcuffed to the hospital bed.
Source: Al- Jazera