Occupied East Jerusalem – Flanked by his mother and aunt, Ahmed Mahmoud strolled up the narrow street that leads to the main road in Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem. It was mid-afternoon in early December 2016, and the 15-year-old had recently earned good grades at school. As a reward, the trio were on an outing to buy him a new pair of shoes, when they encountered a group of teenagers running towards them.
Ahmed realised that clashes were taking place in the area between young men from the neighbourhood and Israeli border guards. “I wanted to return home but then the bullet hit me,” he said. “I fell to the ground. My aunt started screaming. She was screaming at my cousin, who lived nearby, for help.”
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Ahmed had been shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet.
Blood was pouring from his right eye and he could not see anything. Ahmed needed 17 stitches around his eye and the socket had been fractured by the bullet. The retina had been damaged and the doctors told Ahmed’s family that he would not recover his vision.
Ahmed Mahmoud was one of 82 Palestinian children wounded by Israeli forces in 2016, the majority of which were caused by live ammunition, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine, a children’s rights group.
started screaming “Who’s this in the mask?” I said ‘I don’t know. It’s not me.’ He started beating me on my stomach and my back, he pushed the chair where I was sitting and I fell to the ground and he kicked me. It was brutal, he was very violent.”]
The rights group says 2016 was the deadliest year in a decade for Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The rights group recorded the killing of 32 children throughout the year, either by Israeli forces or private security guards. Nine children were injured by crowd control weapons fired by Israeli forces, which include sponge-tipped bullets and the type of rubber bullet that struck Ahmed.
Two children were killed by these types of weapons during 2016 after being shot in the upper body.
The year was marked by increased violence in the region that escalated in October 2015, amid heightened tensions over access to holy sites in Jerusalem, and continued through 2016. Of the 32 children killed that year, 24 were accused of carrying out an attack, according to the rights group, while others were killed during protests and clashes across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at DCI Palestine, told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have increasingly targeted Palestinians, including children, with live ammunition to quash protests since the beginning of 2014.
“When increased violence erupted in October 2015, these changes, combined with systemic impunity, enabled Israeli forces to implement an apparent shoot-to-kill policy, which in some instances may amount to extrajudicial or wilful killings,” said Parker.
Ahmed’s father filed a complaint about the shooting with the police’s internal investigations unit. A week later, Israeli police and intelligence officials raided the family home and took two pairs of black pants, one pair belonging to Ahmed and a second pair belonging to his brother.
Ahmed was not at the home at the time, but Mohammed brought his son to the police station later that day, where he was arrested and interrogated in relation to a case of stone-throwing sometime in November.
“During the interrogation they beat me,” said Ahmed. “They wanted me to say that the person in the photo wearing black pants and a mask was me. I told them it wasn’t me.”
“[The Israeli officer] started screaming “Who’s this in the mask?” I said ‘I don’t know. It’s not me.’ He started beating me on my stomach and my back, he pushed the chair where I was sitting and I fell to the ground and he kicked me. It was brutal, he was very violent.”
The next day, Ahmed appeared in court where prosecutors obtained two extra days to question the boy. However, after a total of four days in detention, the prosecution failed to produce evidence tying Ahmed to the stone-throwing incident and the judge ordered his release on bail.
His lawyer has prioritised getting the file against Ahmed closed, but will continue to pursue the initial complaint against the border police who shot the teenager.
As the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres prepares his first annual report since taking office, human rights groups have stepped up pressure on him to include the Israeli military on a blacklist of children’s rights violators.
Parties can be added to the list if they commit one of five triggering violations of children’s rights: killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, recruitment, sexual violence and abduction.
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a coalition of leading international human rights and humanitarian organisations, has recommended that Israeli forces should be added to the list as a result of dozens of documented cases of killing and maiming of children throughout 2016.
The Israeli army was kept off the 2015 blacklist after the United States and Israeli governments lobbied the UN and threatened to withhold funding from certain programmes if Israeli forces were included.
“Why is 2017 particularly important? It comes in face of the past two years of blatant politicising of the listing process. The Secretary General has a clean slate, being in his first year of tenure,” said Dragica Mikavica, advocacy officer at Watchlist.
The Israeli military was recommended along with 10 other parties including the Pakistani Taliban and armed groups in Libya. Watchlist concluded that the Israeli army should be included in the Secretary General’s list based on documented cases of killing and maiming of children that occurred in 2016, mostly in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. It also cited violations in Gaza, primarily from 2014.
“I’m hopeful that if he has sufficient reason to believe that a party has committed enough violations to be put on the list then it doesn’t matter who the party is. And that’s the point at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter which country we’re talking about, or which party we’re talking about. We’re talking about verified incidents of violations of children’s rights,” Mikavica told Al Jazeera.
Citing the 2015 UN children and armed conflict blacklist, where Israel was recommended but kept off the final list of violators, Parker told Al Jazeera that the UN provided “tacit approval for Israeli forces to continue carrying out grave violations against children with impunity.
“The case for listing [the Israeli army] now is the situation for Palestinian children continues to deteriorate as systemic impunity seems to have emboldened Israeli forces to regularly resort to the unjustified use of intentional lethal force,” he said.
“Listing is a check against impunity and provides a process for accountability when armed forces or armed groups violate universal and fundamental principles.”