In a precedent-setting decision Wednesday, Israel’s National Insurance Institute recognized as a terror victim an East Jerusalem Palestinian man who lost an eye after being shot by Israeli police with a sponge-coated plastic bullet.
The move was expected to open the way for dozens of Palestinians from the city’s east to claim that they, too, are victims of terror, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
Luai Abed, now 37, was shot when he went out on his second-floor balcony in the village of Issawiya in October 2015 after hearing sounds of police clashing with young Palestinians.
Shot in the face, he sustained serious injuries, including the loss of an eye and severe damage to his eye socket and bones in his nose.
Even though Abed was never a suspect and was never interviewed in connection with the disturbances, police at a checkpoint stopped the ambulance which had picked him up to take his details, and followed up at the hospital.
Efforts by Abed’s lawyer Eitay Mack to have police open an investigation yielded no results. The police investigations unit closed the file within a short time, an appeal failed to have the case reopened, and Jerusalem police refused to recognize Abed as a terror victim, the report said.
The National Insurance Institute, which pays disability benefits, initially claimed that public disturbances were not equivalent to terror under the law — a claim that Mack rejected in his appeal, saying that if the claimant had been a Jew, he or she would have been recognized as a terror victim.
This week, the NII recognized Abed as being 40 percent disabled and therefore eligible for benefits as a victim of terror.
In the past, several Palestinians have succeeded in gaining recognition as victims of terror.
The significance of this case is that after several years during which the Defense Ministry and the NII differentiated between public disturbances and terror, they will now recognize as terror victims Palestinians who were shot by Israeli security forces during riots in which they were not involved.
Mack told The Times of Israel he would now apply for terror victim recognition in two more cases. He said other attorneys would also be pushing claims. All had been waiting to see the outcome of Abed’s appeal.
The NII is responsible for paying benefits in East Jerusalem, part of Israel according to Israeli law. In the West Bank, different arrangements apply.
The harder sponge-coated plastic bullets introduced by the police in July 2014 have killed two Palestinian teenagers and seriously injured dozens of others, typically teenagers and children who are the mainstay of street protests, Haaretz said.
התערוכה של הצלמת טלי מאייר, עכשיו בסינמטק ת"א. pic.twitter.com/dvCVu6yfc4
— האגודה לזכויות האזרח (@acrionline) December 10, 2016
But to date, no indictments have been filed against police in connection with these incidents in East Jerusalem.
Police regulations says officers can only shoot with foam-coated bullets during disturbances, cannot shoot at children and, in all events, must aim at the lower body.
Ten days after Abed was shot, Mazen and Nadia Abu Hummus sustained injuries after shots from a police patrol car shattered the first floor window next to which they were standing, Haaretz reported at the time.