Israel appears to be targeting the legs of protesters, then denying them access to medical care in Israel.
“The deployment of snipers, careful planning and significant number of injuries to the lower limbs does reflect an apparent policy to target [those] limbs. [Targeting protesters’ legs] does not make the policy any less illegal. The use of live ammunition to any part of the body invariably causes serious injury and even death.”
— Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch
Mohammad al-Ajouri is a lanky teenager who loves to run, a medal-winning track star with ambitions to compete abroad.
But last month, while participating in a protest along Gaza’s border, he was struck by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. It penetrated his calf, shattering his leg before exiting the shin. Doctors tried to save the limb, but an infection soon spread. The leg had to be amputated.
During the past month of demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel, at least 17 Palestinians have suffered gunshot wounds that ultimately cost them their legs, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
In at least three of the cases, Israeli authorities rejected the transfer of wounded Gazans to the West Bank, where they could receive medical care that might have saved their limbs, according to lawyers and one of the patients’ families.
Since the protests began, Israeli troops have killed 43 Palestinians and wounded more than 3,500 with live ammunition, rubber bullets or shrapnel, the Health Ministry said. Of those, about 2,200 have suffered injuries to the legs.
Israeli officials say the protests along the border fence are violent and provide cover for militant attacks. Israeli media report that troops have been ordered to initially fire warning shots at demonstrators, after which they should target protesters’ legs.
The United Nations, however, says Israel is engaged in an “excessive use of force,” and human rights groups point to cases where soldiers have fired at unarmed protesters or at those who didn’t pose an immediate threat.