Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Photographer critically wounded at Ofer Protest

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By Claire Matsunami - April 19, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Videos] [IN PICTURES]
Tags: [Ofer prison] [Bilíin]

* Photos by Hamde Abu Rahmeh

21-year-old Mohammad Basman Yasin was critically wounded by Israeli forces while working as a volunteer photographer with B’Tselem, documenting the demonstration outside Israel’s Ofer prison near Ramallah on Friday 4 April.  

Protestors gathered outside of Israel’s Ofer military prison to demonstrate against the Israeli government’s failure to release the latest round of prisoners, a group whose release was was of the conditions for the now evaporating peace talks.  

As protesters attempted hold midday prayers outside the prison’s gates, soldiers reportedly began shooting tear gas at them and clashes erupted. Mohammad Yasin was over 100 meters away from the clashes, preparing to leave, when he was shot twice from the right side.  One live bullet sliced across his nose, the other hit him in the waist. He was holding his camera and was wearing a gas mask and bright yellow shirt with PRESS emblazoned on it. 

The bullet that grazed his face was a .22 caliber bullet.  It left a deep gash in his nose. In an interview with the Palestine Monitor, his father pointed out that the shooter was likely aiming at Mohammad’s head.  He noted that every time Mohammad looks in the mirror, he will have to see the scar across his nose, a reminder that “They were aiming for his head. They were trying to kill him.”

.22 caliber bullets are technically banned by the Israeli military as a crowd dispersal method. According Human Rights Organization B’Tselem, they should only be used in life threatening situations.  However, B’Tselem has documented evidence revealing that .22 caliber bullets are still widely used during non-life threatening clashes. 

According to the International Solidarity Movement, at least 13 others were seriously wounded at the same protest. .22 caliber bullets wounded six of the 13. When asked about the clashes by Ma’an News Agency, an Israeli army spokeswoman said that Israeli forces had lightly injured five people.

More troublesome is the fact that the bullet that hit Mohammad struck him in the side.  This bullet was a “dum dum” (or expanding) bullet, which flattens upon impact to create a larger wound and inflict greater damage.  The bullet fragmented into his abdomen, breaking several ribs.  Doctors retrieved one piece of the bullet from his right kidney, but there are still fragments lodged throughout his abdomen.  

The use of “dum dum” bullets is considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court.  Mohammad was the only one at the protest shot by a “dum dum” bullet.  “Why my son? Why is he the one they chose to shoot a dum dum at? Why do they want to kill him?” Mohammad’s father asked.

Mohammad spent nine days in the hospital as a result of his wounds, six of which were spent in the ICU in critical condition.  In three months doctors will assess whether or not to they will attempt to retrieve more bullet fragments.  One fragment remains in his liver that doctors will not attempt to retrieve, due to medical risks.  His family fears he will probably suffer from organ damage and lingering pain for the rest of his life. 

His father is especially troubled by the fact that the shooting was unprovoked. “He wasn’t throwing stones or anything, but he was posing a danger with his photos by showing the world the truth,” he said. The man is horrified, but not surprised. There is no way to run from the occupation.  This is life under occupation.”

Mohammad is home now in his village of Bil’in. He spoke with the Palestine Monitor, sitting in the front yard of his father’s house, surrounded by family and friends. When asked about what he will do now, he smiled shyly, his face still handsome despite the gash across his nose.  He explains that he won’t let his injuries hold him back. “I will take this to court.  I will continue to fight, I will persist, I will not stop until the end.”   




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