On Friday evening young men began to stone houses in Silwan. Border Guard soldiers were called to the scene and tried to disperse the crowd using tear gas grenade launchers.
One of the launchers hit the Qawasmeh family's window and shot into their livingroom, quickly filling up the home with tear gas.
'Saw him turn blue'
"It was about 9:30 pm. I'd just stepped out to buy some milk at the grocery store when it all began," said Qawasmeh. "I thought that if I keep away and keep my family at home nothing bad will happen to us. But it turns out no place is safe, not even my own home."
"My wife was doing the laundry and the kids were watching television when the launcher hit. When I came back I saw gas coming out of the windows and the doors, the kids were screaming. Everyone was hurt – my wife, my four and two year-old daughters and my two-month old son," he recounts.
The tear gas caused his son shortness of breath. "I saw him turning blue. We ordered an ambulance and drove to the hospital," Qawasmeh recalled. "We were discharged at night, but he's still not okay. He cries a lot and doesn't feel well."
Isam Qawasmeh and his two-month old baby (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Qawasmeh feels the police was not operating properly. "This isn't the first time they act this way. My mother's house was almost hit with a gas grenade once. If there is a problem and teens are throwing stones, the police should try and catch them and not punish the entire neighborhood or people that weren't involved."
An attorney for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that "this past year the association has received a number of complaints from east Jerusalem residents claiming they were hurt by tear gas, even though they didn’t leave their homes. The police must establish clear policies on tear gas use in urban areas."
The attorney added that "Jerusalem police turned down our appeal on the matter, so we don't even know whether they have such policies. The use of such measures to disperse protests in an unreasonable or immeasurable manner might end up costing lives."
A Jerusalem police official said in response: "On Friday night dozens of young men stoned the ascribed house in Silwan neighborhood. Border Guard officers arrived on the scene and dispersed protesters using tear gas grenade launchers. The resident contacted police and said his son was hurt by the gas. The infant was mildly injured and police forces escorted him to the ambulance. His claim that his house was hit by a tear gas grenade launcher is being examined."
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