Tristan Anderson, 38, an American citizen, was critically injured on Friday by Israeli troops during protests against Israel’s Wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. He was hit in his forehead by a new type of high velocity, extended range teargas projectile, and has been transferred to Tel Hashomer hospital, near Tel Aviv. Tristan is unconscious, anesthetized and artificially respirated, has sustained life-threatening injuries to his brain (as well as to his right eye), and is expected to undergo several operations in the coming days, in addition to the one he underwent today.
The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson’s forehead and right eye socket. During the operation, part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan’s injuries is yet unknown. It should also be noted that soldiers at the Ni’ilin checkpoint prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from taking Tristan directly to the hospital, forcing it to wait for approximately 15 minutes until an Israeli ICU ambulance (called by Israeli activists) arrived at the scene, after which he had to be carried from one ambulance to the other. This, of course, is standard procedure – in the extremely rare cases where the army allows patients from the occupied territories to be tranferred into Israel.
Tristan was hit while standing with a fellow protester inside the village, several hours after the army initially attacked a protest march of Ni’ilin’s residents (joined by Israeli and international activists) who attempted to march onto their own lands in the vicinity of the wall. As opposed to previous demonstrations, this week protesters managed to actually reach the road on which the wall is currently being built, and even caused damage to parts of the razor-wire protecting the site, as well as to the newly erected fence segments of the barrier. Israeli troops dispersed demonstrators by using large amounts of teargas and rubber coated steel bullets, driving everyone back into the village. Soldiers then followed the crowd and proceeded to shoot concussion grenades, teargas canisters, rubber coated steel bullets and even live ammunition into the village, to which many of Ni’ilin’s youth responded with slingshots, trying to drive the army away from the outskirts of the village.
Anderson’s injury is part of a recent escalation in the army’s violent attempts to suppress Palestinian unarmed popular resistance to the occupation. Israeli troops have been using the new teargas canister since December 2008, coinciding with the beginning of Israel’s ruthless assault on Gaza. The black canister, labelled “40mm bullet, special/extended range” in Hebrew, has a range of over 400 meters, emits a very faint sound when fired and leaves hardly any smoke tail at all – making it extremely difficult to avoid. Furthermore, and against the army’s own regulations, soldiers routinely shoot it directly towards demonstrators, as opposed to in an arched trajectory. The combination of all these factors has led to numerous severe injuries from the projectiles, including a fractured skull and a broken leg suffered by Palestinians earlier this year.
In addition, Israel has resumed its use of sniper-fire, shot from a suppressed Ruger 10/22 rifle, as a means of crowd dispersal. This was forbidden by the army itself already in late 2001, after the Judge Advocate General at the time reclassified the Ruger as “live ammunition” for all intents and purposes, following numerous deaths of demonstrators as well as tests carried out in military shooting ranges.
During the Friday clashes in Ni’ilin, two other Palestinians and one international were lightly injured after being hit by teargas canisters, while a third Palestinian was shot in his leg with live ammunition by a sniper, and was evacuated to a hospital in Ramallah.
In the past six months, Four of Ni’lin’s residents have been shot dead during demonstrations against the wall on their land. Ahmed Mousa, 10, was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008. The following day, Yousef Amira, 17, was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead. He died a week later on August 4, 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje, 22, was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces. He was shot in the back with live ammunition on December 28, 2008. That same day, Mohammed Khawaje, 20, was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead. He died three days later in a Ramallah hospital.