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British forensic researchers challenge Israeli army denial over shooting of child with live fire

Israeli soldiers prepare to fire at protesters in Kafr Qaddum during the town’s weekly protests

22 October | International Solidarity Movement | Kafr Qaddum

Evidence is stacking up against the Israeli Army over the near-fatal shooting of a Palestinian child by a soldier in July, with the release of a damning report from a British research group. 

Nine-year-old Abd el-Rahman Yasir Shatawi, was shot in the head on July 12 while sitting outside his friend’s house during a protest in the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum. He sustained severe brain damage and remains hospitalized more than three months after the attack. 

Since then Abd’s parents have been left in the dark as to why their son, who was not even participating in the protest, was shot by Israeli soldiers from a hill opposite. 

9-year-old Abd el-Rahman Yasir Shatawi, who was shot by Israeli soldiers

Despite eye-witness accounts, medical reports and investigations all saying that Abd was shot with live ammunition, the Israeli army has continued to insist that soldiers did not use live fire that day. 

Instead the military claims that Abd was shot with a rubber-coated metal bullet [RCMB]. 

This has been challenged most recently by London-based research group Forensic Architecture, which carried out an investigation into the incident at the request of ISM.

The comprehensive report compiles video, photo and eye-witness testimonies to piece together the sequence of events prior to the shooting. Based on this evidence they concluded that, “contrary to the repeated claims of Israeli officials, the available medical and image evidence, as well as witness testimony, strongly suggests that Abd el-Rahman’s injuries were caused by live ammunition.” 

As part of the investigation, US forensic experts were shown CT scans of Abd’s brain (pictured below) which has over 100 bullet fragments still lodged in it. From analysing the scans, the experts said: “Although they [RCMB] can indeed penetrate individuals, and are more likely to do so in juveniles who exhibit less dense bone, they are not known to fragment, especially to the extent visible in the CT scans.”

Instead the experts said the level of fragmentation was “consistent with fragmentation seen in 5.56 mm [live] rounds.”  

The medical scans also showed that there was no exit wound, corroborating eye-witness accounts that the shot was fired from a distance of 100-120m. “The farther away the shot, the less likely the bullet will still be travelling with enough energy to completely pass through the skull,” experts told Forensic Architecture. 

The distance is a crucial element as 100-120m is twice the effective distance of a RCMB round.


ISM activists present that day also witnessed soldiers firing live bullets at protesters. 

“We heard gunshots that sounded like loud claps,” they said. “An Israeli activist told us it was live ammunition, saying he’d never seen such disregard for human life. The soldiers on the ridge were spraying bullets everywhere. After the protest we found live bullet casings littering the ground where soldiers had been firing at protesters. This case shows how far Israeli forces will go to avoid admitting their crimes despite the overwhelming evidence against them.”

Abd’s family told ISM that they were not surprised by the army’s refusal to admit to using live fire. “The Israeli army never admitted any crime here,” they said. “Of course they said that because they don’t want to be questioned about it.”

Recently Abd was moved from a Tel Aviv hospital to Beit Jala, after Israeli doctors said there was nothing else they could do. “He can’t speak and no changes [to his condition] occurred since he was shot,” his family said. “The doctors say that his condition is still in danger and that a huge damage occurred in his brain because of the bullet.” 

Images from Forensic Architecture report show difference in soldiers firing live ammunition to rubber-coated metal bullets

Bullets found in a water tank shot during the protest on July 12

Kafr Qaddum residents said the feeling in the town since the shooting has been “indescribable.”

A resident who preferred not to be named told ISM: “A child who is supposed to live peacefully just like any child in the world is being shot brutally. Instead of offering a safe environment for children here, they are being shot and exposed to violent acts.”

Forensic Architecture’s report is the latest piece of evidence stacking up against the Israeli army over the shooting. It joins a previous report by Israeli human rights group B’tselem which blamed the incident on Israel’s “reckless open-fire policy that allows soldiers to use live fire even when neither they nor anyone else is in any danger.” 

In the past three months alone, 100 Palestinian children have been shot with live ammunition. Despite these gross human rights violations, government’s around the world have remained silent on the Israeli army’s callous use of live fire against children. 

Instead Abd’s family has turned to the media in the hope that justice can be delivered through them. “If the world knows what is really happening to the children here, this may bring justice one day.”

Abd being carried into the ambulance after he was shot in the head by soldiers