Ha'aretz, December 5, 1998
B'Tselem Report: 'Rubber Bullets' FatalBy Amira Hass, Ha'aretz Palestinian Affairs Correspondent
At least 57 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Intifada by "rubber" bullets, according to a new report issued last week by B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Territories. Of these fatalities, 28 were children under the age of 17, and 13 were less than 13 years old. From January 1996 through November 1998, 11 Palestinians were killed by this ammunition, including five children. In addition to these fatalities, hundreds of people have been injured, but exact figures are not available for injuries.
According to the B'Tselem report, "rubber bullets, used by the security forces to disperse demonstrators, are really steel bullets covered with a thin layer of rubber. The IDF uses these bullets contending that this ammunition is less lethal than live fire and is thus appropriate for situations in which a soldier's life is not endangered." Yet the B'Tselem report argues that the number of fatalities shows that "the ammunition is clearly lethal and should be used only in life-threatening situations. 'Rubber bullets' should no longer be used to break up demonstrations"
Soldiers serving in the central command are given the following instructions regarding the use of the rubber-coated steel bullets: They are only to be used after other methods (such as tear gas, stun grenades and warning shots fired in the air) prove ineffective. They should not be fired within a range of 40 meters and should not be aimed at children. The bullets should be aimed only at the legs.
Despite this last instruction, dozens of Palestinians have been injured in their upper bodies during the last two years.
In the B'Tselem report, Dr. Robert Kishner wrote of the injuries sustained by the bullets, "tissue damage caused by the rubber-coated steel bullet entering the skin is much greater than the damage produced by a conventional bullet... and the internal damage is greater along the path of these projectiles... children and the elderly are under greater danger of serious injury or death from rubber bullets...."
The IDF spokesman told B'Tselem in June 1998 that rubber bullets were first used in 1989 but proved to be ineffective. Plastic bullets were then employed, but when these proved more dangerous than planned, rubber bullets with steel centers were introduced in 1990.... firing rubber bullets does not require special training, but soldiers do undergo training on this topic.
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