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American citizen critically injured after being shot in the head by Israeli forces in Ni’lin

Updates below Press Release

For Immediate Release

Friday, 13 March 2009, Ni’lin Village: An American citizen has been critically injured in the village of Ni’lin after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a tear-gas canister.

Tristan Anderson from California USA, 37 years old, has been taken to Israeli hospital Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv. Anderson was unconscious and bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth. He sustained a large hole in the right part of his forehead where he was struck by a tear gas canister. The heavy impact from the tear gas canister being shot directly at him, from about 60 meters, also caused severe damage to his right eye, which he may lose. Tristan underwent brain surgery in which part of his right frontal lobe and shattered bone fragments were removed.

Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500m. I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After 5 minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed.

– Teah Lunqvist (Sweden) – International Solidarity Movement

The Israeli army began to use the Ruger rifle and a high velocity tear gas canister in December 2008. The black canister, labeled in Hebrew as “40mm bullet special/long range,” can shoot over 400 meters and weighs 130 grams without the propeller. The gas canister does not make a noise when fired or emit a smoke tail and has a propeller to accelerate the weapon mid-air. A combination of the canister’s high velocity and silence is extremely dangerous and has caused numerous injuries, including a Palestinian male whose leg was broken in January 2009.

Tristan Anderson

Tristan Anderson

Tristan Anderson was shot as Israeli forces attacked unarmed demonstrators, gathered against construction of the annexation wall through the village of Ni’lin’s land. Another resident from Ni’lin was shot in the leg with live ammunition.

Four Ni’lin residents have been killed during demonstrations against the confiscation of their land.

Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29th July 2008.  The following day, Yousef Amira (17) was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead.  He died a week later on 4 August 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22), was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces.  He was shot in the back with live ammunition on 28 December 2008.  That same day, Mohammed Khawaje (20), was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead.  He died three days in a Ramallah hospital.

Residents in the village of Ni’lin have been demonstrating against construction of the Apartheid Wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Ni’lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin was 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after the Wall is built.


31 March: “At this point Tristan has been in the Intensive Care Unit for 18 days. He has had multiple life-saving surgeries, and is in Critical Condition although becoming more stable daily. We remain highly concerned about Tristan considering his brain injuries, yet we know he is resilient and we hope he will recover.” – Gabrielle Silverman

18 March: Tristan’s girlfriend Gabrielle told KPIX TV:

He’s making small incremental improvements day by day but it’s still a very scary situation here. And it’s still unclear to what extent there will be permanent damage to his brain. …

We are here with him and we support him and love him. We spend a lot of time with him, his mother holding one hand, I hold his other hand and we talk to him. People are in the hospital gathering here all the time, bringing food and best wishes and we’re making it through day by day.

16 March: Tristan has been taken to the neurological department and is in intensive care. He is currently listed in stable condition, though this may continue to change due to the seriousness of his injuries.

15 March: The Anderson family posted the following statement on indybay.org:

We are deeply grateful for the love and support pouring in from Tristan’s friends and fellow activists around the world. It is moving to see how many people care for Tristan and are moved by his work championing social justice issues. We are proud of Tristan’s fierce courage, adventurous spirit, and his many travels to all corners of the globe.

Tristan’s girlfriend, Gaby, who has been tirelessly by his side, reports that he is doing much better. When the doctor asked him to put up two fingers he did so. Tristan recognizes Gaby and can squeeze her fingers in answer to different questions. He’s started his moving toes and his torso around a bit. This is welcome and wonderful news! We understand things can go up and down, however we are deeply hopeful that Tristan will recover. We are looking forward to when he is stable enough that he can return home to the care and comfort of his family and community.

In the meantime, we are deeply appreciative of the excellent care he’s receiving, the amazing support that Gaby and his friends are providing, and the thoughts and prayers of those around the world who are holding him in their hearts and minds. It matters tremendously as we all hold faith for Tristan to recover and return home.

Again, we are so very grateful for the outpouring of love and support for Tristan and our family.

Most appreciated,
Tristan’s parents and sister

14 March: Gabrielle Silverman, Tristan’s girlfriend who was with him when he was shot, spoke to Bay City News and KTVU:

As of Saturday he was on full life support and heavily medicated at Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv, his girlfriend Gabrielle Silverman said today in a telephone interview.

“My understanding is that they are trying to let his brain rest as much as possible and do as little work as possible,” Silverman said. …

Palestinian medics immediately came to their rescue and attempted to place Anderson onto a stretcher. But even then, Silverman said, “The army began firing tear gas directly at us … again and again and again.”

“Tear gas was falling at our feet as were loading him onto the stretcher,” Silverman said.

When the medics had successfully situated Anderson, an Israeli soldier stood in front of the ambulance and would not allow it to move, Silverman said.

Silverman detailed with clear agitation in her voice the circumstances that followed, as Anderson was “getting worse, vanishing further.”

She said they underwent another 15-minute holdup at the checkpoint, the reason being, she said, that “Palestinian ambulances are not allowed to enter into the state of Israel from the West Bank.”

“Tristan’s life was in serious danger. He was bleeding terribly everywhere from the head,” Silverman recounted. “We had to just sit and wait until eventually an Israeli ambulance from God knows where showed up and we had to change to another ambulance.”

Once they had arrived at the hospital, Anderson immediately underwent surgery, Silverman said. Surgeons removed a portion of the right frontal lobe of his brain and used a tendon from his leg to seal up the area to help prevent leakage. They also “tried to put his face back together,” Silverman said.

13 March: Anarchists Against the Wall reports on Tristan’s condition (volunteers with AWALLS were present when Tristan was injured and have been at the hospital to oversee his treatment):

The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson’s forehead and right eye socket. During the operation part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan’s injuries is yet unknown.

Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital, tells Ha’aretz:

He’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests,” She described Anderson’s condition as life-threatening.

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack told Ynet:

… the firing incident took place inside the village and not next to the fence. There were clashes in the earlier hours, but he wasn’t part of them. He didn’t throw stones and wasn’t standing next to the stone throwers.

There was really no reason to fire at them. The Dutch girl standing next to him was not hurt. It only injured him, like a bullet.

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