Palestinian reporter loses eye when Israeli police fire on protesters
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Israel’s use of live rounds to disperse protests after a Palestinian journalist lost an eye when Israeli border police fired at Palestinians protesting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on 15 November. Such practices expose reporters to direct danger, RSF said.
Freelance photographer Moath Amarnih has lost the use of his left eye as a result of being hit by fragments from a ricocheting bullet while covering the protest in Surif, a village near the city of Hebron. He was clearly identifiable as a journalist because he was wearing a helmet and a vest with the word “PRESS.”
According to +972 Magazine, a non-profit news website run by Israeli and Palestinian journalists opposed to the Israeli occupation, the police fired 0.22-inch Ruger rifle bullets, also known as “Two-Two.” They are live rounds that cause less damage than regular bullets, but they can cause serious injuries and can be lethal.
Witnesses say that Amarnih, who was about 150 metres from the police at the time, was hit in the eye by fragments from a bullet that exploded after hitting an object
“Although regarded by the Israeli authorities as non-lethal, using firearms and ammunition of this kind to break up protests can clearly cause permanent injuries and exposes journalists to unacceptable risks,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The Israeli authorites must conduct an investigation into this serious incident and must draw the necessary conclusions from this use of weapons against civilians that do not comply with international regulations.”
The Israeli police denied targeting journalists in Surif. In a statement, they said: “The forces, which were facing dozens of demonstrators – some of them with their faces covered who were throwing stones at them and burning tires – used means for dispersing demonstrations in accordance with regulations and the necessary approvals.”
The statement added: “We do everything possible to prevent injuries to innocent people and ask that photographers avoid approaching places that might endanger them.”
According to the information gathered by RSF, the doctors at the Jerusalem hospital where Amarnih was taken are concerned about the fragments still lodged in a sensitive part of his eye, but are wary of operating because of its proximity to his brain.
Amarnih is the second Palestinian journalist to have lost the use of an eye this year. The first was Al-Aqsa TV’s Sami Misran, who was injured by Israeli gunfire while filming a demonstration near a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on 19 July.
Israel is ranked 88th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.