Results from an autopsy of Nadim Nowarah’s body have revealed that live ammunition was the cause of his death. Amidst opposing reports of how the 17-year-old was killed outside of Ofer Prison on 15th May, his body was exhumed on Wednesday to confirm the use of live ammunition lead to his death. The Israeli military have continued to deny the use of live ammunition, insisting that only rubber-coated pellets were used that day as a means of crowd control. Instead, the Israeli military argues that other Palestinians were the perpetrators.
The two teenagers, Nadim Nowarah, 17, and Mohammed Salahmeh, 15, were taking part in a Nakba demonstration outside of Israel’s Ofer Prison in Beitunia, when they were killed.
“From the results…it is 100 percent clear that it is live ammunition, a live bullet,” said Shawan Jabareen from Al Haq, a Palestinian human rights NGO. Entry and exit points were found on Nadim’s body, a casualty unlikely to come from a rubber-coated pellet. The Israeli military use rubber coated pellets to cause a “painful blow” to protestors, according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group. Despite the fact that these 'non-lethal weapons’ cannon pass through a human torso, since 2000, they lead to the fatalities of 18 Palestinians. An x-ray was taken in addition to the autopsy. Four lead fragments were discovered, all signs that live ammunition was used by the Israeli military on May 15th.
The Palestinian Institute of Forensic Medicine at al Quds University in the Abu Dis area of Jerusalem carried out the autopsy. The lead pathologist, Dr Sabr al-Alul, was observed by two Israeli forensic pathologists and assisted by two other pathologists from Denmark and America. The Nouwarah family requested the presence of international pathologists at the autopsy.
Video footage shows that Nowarah and Salameh did not pose any threat to life when the shots were fired. The footage shows Nadim walking by himself during a lull in the protest, no confrontations or aggressive behavior. Israel claims that the footage was falsified, but there has been no evidence to support such a claim. The seeming idleness of both boys at the time of their deaths has lead many to the conclusion that they were victims of unlawful killings.
In the face of the autopsy evidence, Israel’s denial of complicity in the teenager’s death appears tenuous at best. Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement that the “autopsy of Nadim Nouwarah bolts evidence indicating that Israeli forces unlawfully killed the two boys on May 15th.” On 22 May the Israeli military suspended a soldier from the military for firing rubber bullets without authorization during the Nakba demonstrations. The action is far from an admission of guilt; the Israeli military and Border Police insist they are still undertaking an investigation.
A bullet was found in Nadim’s backpack four days after his death. The discovery undoubtedly queries Israel’s claim that only rubber-coated pellets were used during the protest outside of Ofer prison, and is crucial to discovering further clues as to the exact context of the teenager’s death. A source close to the Nowarah family told Palestine Monitor that the bullet was made by the Israeli military. The source declined to elaborate further as an investigation is still underway. The next step is to involve a ballistic expert, who can identify what type of firearm was used, and ultimately “identify who the exact shooter was…..They can’t keep denying it and blaming Palestinians,” stated the source.
Regrettably, concrete intelligence has not always lead to a successful indictment of Israeli military personnel. A representative from Al Haq told Palestine Monitor that “the problem here is access to effective remedy.” According to a report from Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, since 2000, just “16 of the investigations files into incidents in which Palestinians were killed led to indictments.” Nadim’s family and friends will have to hope that Nadim’s case is the exception not the rule and that the killers of their son will be brought to justice.
An official report of the autopsy results is expected in the coming days.