During a meeting this past March, President Donald Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down while they attempt to cross the Southern border.
That revelation was reported by the New York Times, as part of an excerpt from the forthcoming book Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration by reporters Michael Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. The book relies on interviews with dozens of Trump administration officials. According to the excerpt, Trump also indicated that he “wanted the [border] wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh” and floated the idea of a trench in front of the wall that contained alligators. When he was told these methods were illegal, he became aggravated.
While this news has left many understandably shocked, it’s worth remembering that the policy of targeting people in the legs is already implemented by the United States’ closest ally.
The Great March of Return protests along the Gaza fence have continued since last year and Israeli snipers target the legs more than any other part of the body. In December 2018, Gaza’s Health Ministry told the Associated Press that of the 10,511 protesters that had been treated for injuries from the protest’s beginnings in March till winter, 60% of them had been shot in the lower limbs.
“These are complex and serious injuries that do not quickly heal,” Doctors Without Borders said at the time, “Their severity and the lack of appropriate treatment in Gaza’s crippled health system means that infection is a high risk, especially for patients with open fractures. The consequences of these wounds … will be lifelong disability for many.”
In November 2018, Mondoweiss reported on a prosthetic limb workshop that was struggling to keep up with the amount of amputations caused by Israeli sniper fire. Mohammed Dwema, the director of the Artificial Limbs and Polio Center in Gaza City, told Ahmad Kabariti that production and working hours had doubled since the protests had begun. Anas Minerawi, a 26-year-old civil engineer who lost his leg during a protest, told Kabariti:
“I felt like something very painful was going out of my chest. That was the first time I went to the protest, at nearly 200 meters away from the fence. I stumbled and fell down when I turned my back to go home. Suddenly I found myself lying on a bed and being gripped by nurses’ hands to prevent me to move. It seemed I have spent weeks or years wandering in my mind. It was like a thriller movie had captured your senses.”
And in May 2018 Mondoweiss reported from a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Gaza that was facing a similar challenge. Elizabeth Kuse, the Gaza Project Coordinator for MSF France, told Yumna Patel, Akram al-Wara, and Nidal Wuheidi that the majority of patients the clinic was seeing were injured in their legs. “So, for us it’s an indication that they are targeting in the lower limbs,” Kuse explained.
This past July, an Israeli military commander told the Jerusalem Post that snipers had been trained to aim for protestors ankles because “firing at the lower half of the body above the knee led to the deaths of many people, even though this was not our objective.” These policies were approved by Israel’s Supreme Court who ruled that “there can be no doubt regarding their legality.”
“[This new policy] in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life,” said the human rights group B’Tselem in a statement, “On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans.”