On August 8, 2020, pellet shotguns were used on protestors at close distance and critical body zones. The Health Ministry, following the arrival of injured protesters to the hospital, attempted to put a stop to financial coverage of treatments that is usually granted to injuries caused by protest suppression. This was only reversed after the ministry faced pressure by the Lebanese Order of Physicians and hospital administrations.
The following describes the inhumane oppression practiced by the internal security forces along with the armed infiltrators in civilian wear. The inhumanity and extent of injury the medical community witnessed is beyond words. This is an inside view of the damage our self-proclaimed “government” continues to inflict on us.
Note: Some of the following information derives from the press conference held on August 13, 2020, by medical professionals from hospitals across Beirut.
A direct blow to the left chest, neck and arm on a 20-year-old. More than 30 pellets inside.
Mechanisms of major injury, regardless of the affected body area, reflect damage caused by high velocity, indicating a shooting distance of less than 2 meters.
Attackers were at many times hidden and not directly observed by their victims. Shots were fired from behind the steel and cement barriers protecting the central area where the parliament is located. At other times, protestors witnessed shooters wearing civilian attire and firing their arms after seconds of direct eye contact. How inhumane to stare an unarmed civilian facing you and shoot them despite all the fear in their eyes.
At first glance, the boy is in excruciating pain but there is no major damage. Upon inspection, the pellets seemed to be superficial; however, a CT scan showed that the pellets travelled deep and lodged very close to vital structures including the trachea, lungs, heart, and major arteries.
Weapons used by security forces in the protests are technically meant to be used under strict guidelines where they maintain their power of protest containment without causing debilitating damage. In untrained oppressive hands, these weapons were removed from their relatively safe context and transformed into lethal tools.
Rubber bullets fall under the category of kinetic impact projectiles. The bullet is encased in a hard sheath that falls off after the bullet travels for 1-2 meters. Bullets shot at protesters were found lodged along with the hard sheath indicating a firing distance of less than two meters.
Other weapons, including pellet shotguns, are only meant to be used in the context of hunting and are universally banned from being used against human bodies. Pellets were found entering bodies at extreme proximity indicating an inadequate distance that did not allow for cartridge dispersion.
In addition to several pellets lodged in both thighs, this boy received a major shot to his right hand. Injuries like this, having hit arteries or nerves supplying the hand, could have led to permanent loss of function.
Aside from the acute injury to vital body organs, eyes, central vessels, and limbs, these pellets are retained inside victims for life, as most times there is more harm in attempting to extract them. Metals including lead, can cause untreatable lifelong fatigue and long term toxic damage to surrounding body structures.
Pellets also lodged in abdominal structures including the liver and the colon.
Scientific information required to provide standard treatment for these victims is lacking since these injuries are globally rare and unmatched. The only data available to us is from victims shot by mistake during hunting activities.
Bassam Osman is a medical doctor with a degree from the American University of Beirut. Currently he is a third year general surgery resident at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. He is looking forward to completing a fellowship in cardiac surgery in the United States. You may follow Bassam on Twitter @_bosman_.