Monday, June 07, 2010

U.S. demands IDF probe how American lost eye at West Bank protest

Latest update 00:48 07.06.10

By Chaim Levinson 

The United States embassy has demanded an investigation into how an American citizen lost her eye last week at the Qalandiyah checkpoint after being struck by a tear gas grenade.  

Emily Henochowicz, 21, an art student in New York, came to Israel six weeks ago as an exchange student at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. She has participated in a number of protests in the West Bank. Last Monday, after the takeover of the Mavi Marmara, Henochowicz took part in a demonstration at the Qalandiyah checkpoint together with a few dozen protesters. Border Policemen fired tear gas grenades to disperse the protest, one of which struck Henochowicz in the face. She was taken to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, where she underwent surgery. In addition to losing her left eye, Henochowicz is suffering from fractures to her face. She returned to the United States on Saturday night for continued treatment. 

Henochowicz's father, a doctor, is originally from Israel and she also has Israeli citizenship. 

The U.S. embassy has been in continuous touch with the family. Haaretz has learned that the embassy conveyed a demand that Israel investigate the incident. A Swedish activist, Soren Johanssen who was reportedly standing near Henochowicz, was quoted as saying: "They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face." 

Another protester, Jonathan Pollak, was quoted as saying that Border Policemen had intentionally aimed at the demonstrators. 

However, an internal probe by the Border Police indicates that the tear gas projectile hit a wall and subsequently flew at Henochowicz. A statement from the Border Police spokesperson said: "The investigation carried out by the IDF showed that the forces operated at the site impeccably and utilized means according to procedure. There was no directly-aimed fire in the incident." 

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said: "The incident is known. We have not received an official request from the Americans on this matter. We are in a very open and effective dialogue with them about the incident." 

Henochowicz's attorney, Michael Sfard, yesterday demanded that the Samaria and Judea District police (which investigates suspected criminal use of weapons by Border Policemen in the West Bank ) launch an investigation. "According to testimony I have begun to receive, the firing was at close range and was directly aimed, and if this is correct, it is clearly a criminal act for which those involved must answer. My client and her family have authorized me to say that they demand that her unnecessary injury be fully investigated, and that we spare no effort to ensure that law enforcement authorities carry out their duty in this matter," Sfard wrote in his demand.

No comments: