Palestinian autopsy: Teen shot in head with police sponge bullet

Report contradicts police claim of Sunuqrut’s death; four arrested for attempted firebombing of French Hill gas station.

Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israel Police in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz September 7, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israel Police in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz September 7, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An autopsy report released Sunday by a Palestinian coroner confirmed the cause of death of Arab teen Muhammad Abd al-Majid Sunuqrut last week was a sponge-covered bullet to the head, directly contradicting police claims that the 16-year-old fell and fractured his skull.
While police contended that Sunuqrut was shot in the leg for throwing rocks at officers and then tripped upon attempting to flee the scene during an August 31 riot in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz, his parents held that he was shot in the head.
According to Sunuqrut’s father, Abd, his son was on his cellphone at the time of the riot and not participating in the violence when he was shot at close range.
The boy died a week after emergency surgery at Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, setting off a series of riots in Wadi Joz and Isawiya, which culminated in a firebomb attack on a gas station in nearby French Hill.
Shortly after Sunuqrut’s death, his body was transferred to the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir near Tel Aviv for an autopsy conducted by a Palestinian coroner, with an Arab attorney present. Israeli doctors are reportedly awaiting further tests to finalize the cause of death.
Sunuqrut is the first fatal casualty of Palestinian rioting that engulfed much of east Jerusalem for two months following the revenge murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir and the advent of Operation Protective Edge, resulting in more than 600 Palestinian arrests and 180 indictments.
Reached for comment following the announcement of the autopsy, Meretz councilman Dr. Meir Margalit, who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, said he was not surprised that police claims of the cause of death were fabricated.
“I never believed the police or the authorities when they tried to explain how he died,” he said. “I always say that the police in the city are not part of the solution, but part of the problem.
We need a regulator who will control their behavior.”
Margalit cited the frequently heavy-handed tactics of Border Police officers as a major cause for concern.
“You need to make a distinction between blue and green police,” he said. “Border police are green, and mostly young people who are not well educated and behave recklessly. Blue police are more mature and have more common sense, so it is important to have more blue police than green police in the city.”
The councilman added that he has long been troubled by the border police’s aggressive behavior and attitudes.
“They use too much force when it comes to Palestinians or leftists at demonstrations,” he said. “I do not see the same use of force when it comes to right-wingers.”
A police spokeswoman said she was not permitted to comment about the autopsy report Sunday.
Police on Sunday arrested four Arab teens from Isawiya for the looting and attemped firebombing of the French Hill gas station a week ago. According to police, the unidentified four youths, between the ages 15 and 17, were among dozens of young Isawiya residents who rioted on August 7, following the death of Sunuqrut.
When Sunuqrut’s death was announced amid speculation of police brutality, the mob gathered at approximately 9 p.m. and threw rocks at the station’s Arab workers, stole the cash register and repeatedly attempted to ignite several gas pumps. No arrests were made at the time and no injuries reported.
All four suspects were arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, where a judge ordered them to remain in custody. A police spokesman said Sunday night that more arrests are expected soon.