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Israel — It Just Keeps Getting Worse: Evidence Emerges of 'Shoot To Cripple' Policy In the Occupied West Bank

Israeli soldiers use live fire and expanding bullets to shatter the legs of West Bank protesters.

West Bank protests. (Screen capture from YouTube video)
West Bank protests. (Screen capture from YouTube video)

By Max Blumenthal
At 10 PM on August 8, a twenty-year-old resident of the Al Amari refugee camp named Muhammad Qatri arrived dead at the Palestinian Medical Complex in Ramallah. He had been killed by Israeli soldiers during a protest near the illegal West Bank settlement of Psagot — shot through the heart right on the spot on his shirt that read, “Gaza.”

From the parking lot outside the hospital’s emergency room, a group of men bellowed chants about the latest unarmed young man to fall before Israeli gunfire in an usually bloody few weeks. I arrived at the hospital gates with a colleague and met Dr. Rajai Abukhalil, a 26-year-old resident physician who had just phoned Qatri’s father to deliver the bad news. Not even midway through his night shift, Abukhalil was already on his fifth coffee and still awaiting a free moment to take breakfast.

At a coffee kiosk behind the hospital’s emergency room, Abukhalil told me Qatri’s body arrived cold. The soldiers who killed him had apparently delayed his evacuation by at least an hour, possibly preventing the opportunity to save his life.

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Most disturbing about the killing was how familiar scenes like it had become. According to Abukhalil, the Israeli army has exhibited a clear pattern of either shooting to kill or shooting to cripple over the past six months. Rather than disperse protests with traditional means like teargas and rubber coated metal bullets, the army has begun firing at protesters’ knees, femurs, or aiming for their vital organs.

Like the army’s old policy of breaking the arms of young stone throwers to deter protests during the First Intifada, the new tactic suggests an attempt to winnow out the ranks of demonstrators by shattering their legs. By eroding the front line of protests through brute force, Israel’s military is apparently trying to undermine the capacity of Palestinian society to mount an effective new Intifada.

“It’s very much like the bone breaking policy of the First Intifada but it’s a more specific and less media attention-grabbing policy,” Abukhalil explained to me. “No matter how much people want to resist, everyone’s human. If you get shot or someone next to you gets shot, you won’t be on the front line at the next clash. And then there will be no front line.”

Abukhalil said he first witnessed signs of the shoot to cripple policy in the Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah. Following the gratuitous killing of a 15-year-old boy shot in the back in December by a sniper hiding near his school, protests raged throughout the camp. As the army cracked down, it began aiming for the knees of demonstrators, according to Abukhalil.

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