21 year old Mohammad Basman Yasin was critically wounded by Israeli forces while working as a volunteer photographer with B’tselem, documenting the demonstration in Bitunya on Friday 4 April.
The demonstration took place near Ofer prison, protesting against the Israeli governments failure to release the latest round of prisoners, whose release was one of the conditions for the now evaporating peace talks.
Protesters attempting to pray when soldiers began to shoot tear gas at them and clashes erupted. Mohammad was over 100 meters away from the demonstrators, preparing to leave, when he was shot twice from the right side. One bullet sliced across his nose, the other hit him in the waist. He was holding his camera and was wearing a gas mask and bright yellow shirt with PRESS emblazoned on it.
The bullet that grazed his face was a .22 caliber bullet. It left a deep gash in his nose, and in an interview his father pointed out that the shooter was likely aiming at Mohammad’s head. He noted that every time Mohammad looks in the mirror, he will have to see the scar across his nose, a reminder that “They were aiming for his head. They were trying to kill him.”
.22 caliber bullets are technically banned by the Israeli military as a crowd dispersal method, and according Human Rights Organization B’tselem, should only be used in life threatening situations. However, B’tselem has documented evidence that .22 bullets are still widely used during non-life threatening clashes.
According to the International Solidarity Movement, at the protest where Mohammad was shot, at least 13 others were seriously wounded. Of the 13, six were wounded by .22 caliber bullets. (An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an News that the result of the clashes was Israeli forces “lightly injuring” five people.)
More troublesome is that the bullet that hit Mohammad hit him in the side. This bullet was a “dum dum” or expanding bullet, which flattens upon impact to create a larger wound and inflict greater damage. The bullet fragmented into his abdomen, breaking several ribs. Doctors retrieved one piece of the bullet from his right kidney, but there are still fragments lodged throughout his abdomen.
The use of “dum dum” bullets is considered a war crime by the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Article 8(2)(b)(xix)). Mohammad was the only one at the protest shot by a “dum dum” bullet. “Why my son? Why is he the one they chose to shoot a dum dum at? Why do they want to kill him?” asks Mohammad’s father.
Mohammad spent 9 days in the hospital as a result of his wounds, 6 of the days were spent in the ICU in critical condition. In three months doctors will assess whether or not to attempt to retrieve more bullet fragments. There is one fragment in his liver that doctors will not attempt to retrieve, due to medical risks. His family stated that he will probably suffer from organ damage and lingering pain for the rest of his life.
His father is especially troubled by the fact that the shooting was unprovoked, “he wasn’t throwing stones or anything, but he was posing a danger with his photos by showing the world the truth.” He is horrified, but not surprised, “There is no way to run from the occupation. This is life under occupation.”
Mohammad is home now, in his village Bil’in, sitting in the front yard of his father’s house surrounded by family and friends. When asked about what he will do now, he smiles shyly, his face still handsome despite the gash across his nose. He explains that he won’t let his injuries hold him back, “I will take this to court. I will continue to fight, I will persist, I will not stop until the end.”