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Police won’t be charged after East Jerusalem boy loses eye during raid

Internal affairs closes probe into incident in which Malik Eissa, 9, was apparently hit with sponge-tipped bullet; lawyer decries ‘shameful’ decision

Malek Issa (YouTube screenshot)
Malek Issa (YouTube screenshot)

The police’s internal investigations unit has closed its investigation into the serious injury of a 9-year-old boy, who was apparently injured by a sponge-tipped bullet during a raid in East Jerusalem in February.

No officers will be charged over the incident in the neighborhood of Issawiya, the unit said.

“The Police Internal Investigations Department came to the conclusion that there is no substantial evidence to warrant prosecution,” a PIID spokesperson said in a statement.

Clashes allegedly broke out between Issawiya residents and Border Police after officers arrived to conduct arrests. A Border Police officer fired sponge-tipped bullets during the event. While the officer claims that he fired the bullet at a wall, a young boy said he was struck by one of the rounds in the head.

The boy, identified as Malik Eissa, was hospitalized in serious condition and later had his eye removed.

The statement said that investigators had received a professional medical opinion that indicated Eissa’s injury could have been the result of a stone thrown during clashes with police rather than a rubber bullet.

His lawyer condemned the decision by the PIID, a department of the Justice Ministry, calling it “shameful.”

“If a policeman shot at a wall while children are returning from school, and a bullet hit Malik’s eye, this is the most serious possible negligence,” his attorney said, according to the Walla news site.

A 9-year-old who was shot in the head by a a sponge-tipped bullet during a police operation in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya in hospital in Jerusalem on February 26, 2020 (screen capture/Channel 13)

The move was also condemned by Joint List MK Ofer Cassif, who called it a “whitewash” and said it gave police “official permission to keep shooting” Palestinian children.

At the time, police apologized for the incident.

“During a police operation, riot-dispersal means were used and a nine-year-old minor was hurt,” the police said in a statement. “We are sorry for the injury to the minor and wish him a speedy recovery.”

Malik’s father told Channel 13 his son had gone to a store to make a purchase. When he came out of the door “he was hit between the eyes.” He denied that there had been demonstrations prior to the incident.

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

In February, community leaders argued that police had unreasonably stepped up their operations in Issawiya over the previous 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 correlated with what they describe as increased violence emanating from the neighborhood.

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