Ramallah: The Israeli regime on Tuesday claimed that a Palestinian teenager’s severe head injury was caused by a bicycle accident and not an Israeli bullet, sparking angry comments from activists and his family.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem produced medical documents appearing to verify that Mohammad Tamimi, 15, was shot.
A cousin of prominent jailed Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, he was allegedly shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet during a protest in the occupied West Bank in December, leaving part of his skull missing.
It occurred the day Ahed Tamimi, 17, slapped and kicked two soldiers next to her house in a video that later went viral. She faces a long potential jail sentence in a case that has gained international attention.
Mohammad’s alleged shooting has been a key line of defence for Ahed’s actions by her lawyer in court hearings.
But on Tuesday, an Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees affairs in the occupied territories said Mohammad had confessed the injury was the result of falling off a bike.
“In December 2017, the young man Mohammad Tamimi injured his skull when he was riding his bicycle and fell off,” it said in an Arabic language statement posted on Facebook.
“Today his father Abu Fadel Tamimi is claiming in the media that his son was injured by a rubber[-coated steel] bullet in his skull,” it said, adding in bold red letters “fake news”.
The army detained Mohammad for several hours on Monday along with a number of other residents from Ahed’s village of Nabi Saleh.
His uncle, Atallah, said when the teenager was arrested he did not want to tell the army that he was injured during a protest fearing he could be jailed.
But he did not admit falling off the bike, added the uncle.
“They asked him to sign a paper and he refused.”
B’Tselem produced what it said were complete medical notes from the hospital in Ramallah showing Mohammad was taken there with a “bullet injury”.
Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli activist who said he was at the demonstration, told AFP he was around 20 metres away when Mohammad was shot.
He said the teenager was climbing a ladder towards a house which Israeli occupation soldiers were in.
Pollak said he heard the shot but did not see it, though afterward it was clear to him and others that it was a bullet injury.
“This was one of the bloodiest injuries I have ever seen. He had a hole in his face to the left of his sinus. I was worried he would suffocate to death from all the blood ... It was very obviously a bullet wound.”
The protest took place against the backdrop of US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of occupied Jerusalem, which sparked major protests by Palestinians.