The recent killing of Jawaher Abu Rahmah in Bil’in – and the death or injury of many others — by Israeli tear gas munitions imported from the US has spotlighted the collaboration of American companies in the lethal suppression of unarmed protests in the West Bank. However, another US-made “less lethal” weapon has also caused many deaths and injuries, but has received less attention.
Live fire “crowd control” rounds attributed to .22 caliber sniper rifles, made by Sturm, Ruger Co. in Newport, NH, have been responsible for at least six – and possibly more — deaths and scores of injuries during the past couple of years:
- On January 28, 2008, Kusai al-Afrandi, age 17, was killed in Bethlehem
- on 29 July 2008, Ahmad Musa, age 10, was killed in Ni’lin
- on 28 December 2008 Mohammed Khawaje, age 20 (and Mohammed Hamid, age 22)
- on 13 February 2009, Izzedine al-Jamal, age 14, was killed in Hebron
- on 5 June 2009, Yusuf Aqel Srour, age 36 in Ni’lin (28 other than Srour were injured by 0.22” bullets in Ni’lin alone)
- B’stelem claims to have documented injuries from these weapons in Ni’lin, Bil’in, Jayyus, Bitunya, and Budrus, including at least one foreign national
Israeli sniper Weapons– front, Ruger 10/22 suppressed. (Photo)
Israel began to import small caliber sniper rifles for “riot control” during the First Intifada. The intention was to deploy weapons that would be less lethal than its standard issue 5.56mm US-Israeli M16 assault rifle, but with more potent firepower than rubber-coated metal bullets (which have also killed). The IDF settled on the Ruger 10/22, which fired a relatively small, but high velocity 0.22 caliber rimfire cartridge that could be used “to take out key protest leaders by shooting them in the legs.” The Israeli version was fitted with a sniper scope and, presumably to amplify its terror effect, with a fully “suppressed” – or silenced in popular usage — barrel, which could wound or kill at a distance with no loud report to indicate the shot’s origin. As one advertiser of this weapon boasted, the only noise you will hear is the firing pin hitting and then, the ‘smack’ on the target.”
IDF sniper armed with the Ruger 10/22 Suppressed rifle during the Israeli-Palestinian clashes in the Occupied Territories, October 2000. (Photo)
In 2001, following the killing of several children in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank by Israeli soldiers using the Ruger 10/22, the IDF Judge Advocate General ruled that the weapon should be classified as a live-fire weapon and banned from crowd control usage. ”The mistake was that the Ruger came to be seen as a means of dispersing demonstrations, in contrast to its original purpose as a weapon in every respect,” said a senior IDF officer.
Nevertheless, the Israeli security forces began to deploy the Ruger 10/22 again, with lethal effect, to suppress West Bank protests against the Apartheid Wall in 2008-09. Court testimony last October indicated that the cost of .22 caliber ammunition fired in Bil’in and Ni’lin from August 2008 to December 2009 was NIS 1.3 million, or about $350,000. That’s a lot of bullets. The ammunition retails in the US for as little a 5 cents per round, which would suggest that millions of bullets may have been fired. An Israeli West Bank operations commander claimed that he was “not aware of the prohibition” against the weapon for crowd control. Nothing could better illustrate the lawlessness of the occupation and the security forces that maintain it – even with respect to Israel’s own court rulings. (More than a year after the court ordered the wall at Bil’in to be moved further away from the village, nothing has been done as yet.)
The Sturm, Ruger Co is apparently proud that its rifle was chosen by the IDF, even going as far as to reprint an enthusiastic article that originally appeared on isayeret.com, the web site of the Israeli Special Forces. At the same time, the company boasts that “for almost 60 years, Ruger has been a model example of corporate and community responsibility.” Perhaps they should hear from people who wonder whether supplying lethal weapons for use against unarmed protesters — to guard stolen land and maintain an illegal occupation — is an example of corporate responsibility.
Sturm, Ruger Corporate Headquarters: Lacey Place, Southport, CT 06890. (Fax: 203-256-3367); Newport Manufacturing Facility : 411 Sunapee Street
Newport, NH 03773 (Telephone: 603-863-3300) 603-863-3300; Fax: 603-863-3253)