East Jerusalem boy seriously hurt in protest, apparently by police sponge bullet
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East Jerusalem boy seriously hurt in protest, apparently by police sponge bullet

Police say incident occurred during attempt to disperse demonstrators, investigation opened; father says boy may lose one or both of his eyes

Israeli Border Police stand guard next to new cement blocks placed at the entrance to Issawiya in East Jerusalem during a demonstration against the neighborhood's closure, November 12, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli Border Police stand guard next to new cement blocks placed at the entrance to Issawiya in East Jerusalem during a demonstration against the neighborhood's closure, November 12, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A 9-year-old boy was seriously wounded on Saturday after he was apparently injured by a sponge-tipped bullet during a police operation in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, Hebrew media reported.

The boy’s father told the Haaretz daily that his son had serious facial injuries, may be suffering from brain damage and there are concerns he may lose one or both of his eyes as a result of his wounds.

Israel Police said in a statement that the boy was hurt during an attempt to disperse demonstrators during a police operation, and that an investigation had been opened.

The boy’s father denied that there were demonstrations prior to the incident.

Community leaders have argued that the police have unreasonably stepped up its operations in Issawiya over the past several months and employed excessive force against residents, undermining stability and stoking tensions in the neighborhood.

Police officials, however, have pushed back against the charges, asserting that the heightened operations in Issawiya directly correlate with what they describe as increased violence emanating from the neighborhood.

Residents of Issawiya protest against police violence at the entrance to the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, November 5, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Since May, the police have raided over 500 homes in Issawiya and arrested more than 600 residents — only about 20 of whom were indicted, Mohammed Abu Hummus, a member of the neighborhood’s Parents Committee, said in an interview earlier this year

Locals, meanwhile, have lately stepped up violence against police officers, according to Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Saturday’s incident came a day after an Israeli soldier was lightly injured by a stone and four Palestinians were hurt in a protest in the West Bank village of Budrus. The soldier was treated at the scene northwest of Ramallah and then sent to a hospital, according to Hebrew media reports. The condition of the Palestinians was not clear.

Protests were also reported in Ramallah, Nablus and near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Troops fired tear gas at Palestinians who threw rocks and set tires on fire.

A Palestinian protester walks by burning tires amid clashes with Israeli forces at the northern entrance of the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 14, 2020. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Tensions have soared in the West Bank and Jerusalem since the release of a US peace plan on January 28 that Palestinians reject as biased in favor of Israel.

Last Friday, two border guards were lightly hurt, while a Palestinian teenager was reportedly shot dead by Israeli troops and dozens more wounded in widespread clashes in the West Bank.

Earlier this month Israel saw a string of attacks on Israel Defense Forces soldiers and police officers, leaving 14 service members wounded.

Two members of the Palestinian security services were also killed, at least one of whom was apparently mistaken for a terrorist by an Israeli sniper.

Palestinian leaders said the violence was an inevitable result of the plan’s pro-Israel bias, while Israeli officials accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging the attacks.

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the architect of the US peace plan for the Middle East, blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the spike in West Bank violence.

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