By Jonathan Lis
Originally published in Haaretz
Matan Cohen, an Israeli demonstrator against the separation fence, told Haaretz on Saturday that doctors are not sure if he will be able to see out of his eye again after he was reportedly shot the day before by a Border Police officer during a protest.
Cohen said he was shot Friday in his eye with a rubber bullet during clashes between anti-fence demonstrators and Israeli security forces in the West Bank village of Beit Sira, southwest of Ramallah. He was taken to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer.
“We went to a nonviolent demonstration against the separation fence on portions of the village land. We reached an agreement with the military representative that the demonstration would remain nonviolent. We told them we wanted no confrontations. The request was honored until a Border Police force arrived,” Cohen said.
“At that point, the clashes began and the Border Police officers fired live fire into the air and rubber bullets from point blank range. Ten officers then began running toward the demonstrators that had already begun dispersing. Me and three other international activists were standing far from the demonstrators. A Border Police officer stood 20 meters from me, and I heard him cock his weapon. I yelled to him, ‘Don’t shoot, nobody is endangering you,’ but he shot. I felt a sharp pain in my eye, lost my vision and fainted.”
“He simply shot me in the head. The bullet hit half a centimeter above my eye. It’s utter contempt for human life, when in the name of the defense of something or other the army has a right to hurt demonstrators,” Cohen continued.
Border Police sources refused to respond to the statements, saying that only Israel Defense Forces spokespeople had the authority to respond to the affair. IDF sources said a preliminary examination revealed Cohen was injured by a stone thrown by an unruly demonstrator. They said that since he was standing closer to the forces than to the demonstrators, it is likely that he was hit by demonstrators aiming for forces.
IDF sources also said that the demonstration in Beit Sira, along with one nearby in Abud, constituted a violation of order because the area had been declared a closed military zone. The demonstrators said the sources threw stones at the security forces, which prompted the dispersal by security forces.
During the clashes, three soldiers were lightly injured in Abud and one in Beit Sira.