U.S. Asks Israel to Investigate Wounding of American Citizen
June 7, 2010The United States has asked Israel to investigate an incident in which an American woman lost an eye after being shot by Israeli forces with a tear gas canister during a pro-Palestinian protest in Jerusalem, a U.S. diplomat said Monday.
Emily Henochowicz, a 21-year-old visual arts student from Maryland and a dual Israeli-American citizen, was struck in the face by a canister fired by an Israeli policeman during a violent demonstration against Israel's deadly naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.
The case highlights charges by rights groups that Israeli forces are improperly using tear gas canisters by firing them directly at crowds in a way that has severely injured protesters.
Israeli officials say they are fully cooperating with the U.S. request for an investigation.
Henochowicz, a young artist whose chief icon on her Internet blog is a large eyeball, returned to the U.S. over the weekend and couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Her lawyer, Michael Sfard said he filed a complaint demanding a criminal investigation of the incident.
Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli activist who attended the May 31 protest, said Henochowicz was hit as a few Palestinian youths hurled rocks at the Qalandia checkpoint in northern Jerusalem. Pollak said she didn't participate in any violence.
Footage captured by a Russian television channel posted onto YouTube shows the young woman walking with a Turkish flag -- in solidarity with the Turkish activists who had tried to sail to Gaza. She is seen several yards (meters) away from the stone-throwing youths, falls down and is dragged away, bleeding profusely, by a female protester.
"We have talked to the Israelis about getting the details on the situation as soon as possible," said U.S. embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer. It is understood that the request for an investigation was made earlier this week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel is cooperating fully with the request.
Israeli police spokesman Moshe Fintzy said an initial investigation said the tear gas was fired "according to procedures and there was no deviation from those procedures."
But Sarit Michaeli, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, questioned the police's tactics. She said police and soldiers often fire tear gas canisters directly at people -- a practice she called "illegal and dangerous."
"B'Tselem has documented dozens of cases in video," Michaeli said. "The army's own laws on how tear gas canisters must be used are very clear: you mustn't fire it at a person."
In March 2009, another U.S. citizen, 38-year-old Tristan Anderson of Oakland, California, was badly wounded after he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister during a West Bank protest. Anderson lost his right eye and suffered brain damage. A Palestinian man also killed after he was hit in the chest with a canister during a similar demonstration.
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