Paris – On Friday November 15, Palestinian freelance journalist, Muath Amarneh was shot in his left eye by an Israeli sniper whilst documenting clashes between Palestinians and Israel Border Police in Surif, south of the occupied West Bank.
A video posted online showed Amarneh bleeding heavily from his left eye, wearing his press vest and holding his camera whilst being carried away by his colleagues. Doctors have said a fragment of metal, around two centimeters long, penetrated the eye and lodged itself behind it, close to the brain. Doctors are unable to extract the metal piece as further damage could be done to his right eye or could potentially cause bleeding in the brain.
Amarneh’s incident sparked notable attention among many Palestinians and journalists throughout the country and in several other Arab countries. Since Friday’s incident, various protests have been held in the West Bank and Gaza, and many journalists condemned the deliberate targeting by taking to social media to post photos of themselves wearing eye patches.
On Sunday, in Amarneh’s hometown of Bethlehem, hundreds of journalists and other protesters took part in sit-ins – many wearing their press vests and eye patches to show solidarity for Amarneh and held signs that read, “The eyes of truth will never be blinded.” Israeli police however, violently broke up the crowds using tear gas and fired sound bombs. Palestinian news agency, ‘Wafa,’ reported that many journalists suffered from suffocation due to tear gas inhalation and health officials reported seven people suffered from minor injuries.
Israel’s border police have denied allegations that they purposefully targeted photojournalists in last Friday’s protests, adding that authorities used only ‘nonlethal’ methods to disperse crowds.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh showed solidarity by covering his left eye during a cabinet meeting in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. He also communicated his outrage of the deliberate attack saying that Israeli forces target Palestinians in an attempt to “silence the voice of truth.”
Amarneh’s case is one of countless instances where journalists have been targeted by live ammunition this year. A report released by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), stated that Israeli forces carried out 600 rights violations against Palestinian journalists between October 2018 and October 2019 in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip. Furthermore, Israeli forces shot 60 journalists, many of whom suffered serious injuries. A further 43 journalists were also hit by sound grenades which were thrown directly at them by Israeli forces.
The report further explained that during that same period, 10 journalists were detained by Israel’s military occupation forces, increasing the number to 18 journalists currently in Israeli prisons. As many as five journalists are being held in detention facilities without charges or a trial.
Last year, Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, was killed by Israeli forces while covering the Friday protests near the Gaza strip, despite wearing his press vest. He became the 10th Palestinian to be killed by Israeli army after being shot on April 6, 2018.
As Israeli media outlets rarely cover the border clashes, international media outlets rely, for the most part on Palestinian photojournalists to report developments on the ground.
Under international humanitarian law and under the laws of war, media personnel, and journalists are considered civilians, therefore unsusceptible to any attack unless they are directly taking part in the conflict.
Israel’s current policy surrounding property destruction and its civilians aggregating in Palestinian occupied territory is causing thousands of Palestinians to become stateless – a rudimental breach of international law.
This situation has grown dramatically worse for Palestinians these last few years, as Israel has received greater support from the white house to pursue its agenda without having to concern itself with international law, the occupying forces, colonists and Israeli police have greater latitude than even before to harass, attack and even kill Palestinians with impunity.
Palestinian journalists, under international law, have the right to report events happening in the region without fear of being personally targeted, and as the situation on the ground deteriorates, it’s more important than ever for the world to witness what is happening in occupied Palestine.
Deliberately targeting journalists is a heinous crime and sheds a glaring light on the current situation of Israel’s complete disregard towards Palestinians and international law. Shooting journalists who are clearly recognizable suggests a deliberate effort to inhibit the press from carrying out their work. Clearly Israeli forces are deliberately targeting the only people who can give the international community a true sense of Israel’s relentless devastation and destruction.
Posing as critical eyewitnesses to the onslaught that transpires in the West Bank and Gaza, photojournalists have taken multiple risks to ensure authentic coverage of the wars that have occurred and continue to occur in the Middle East. Their work is significant and as we have seen in response to the attack on Muath Amarneh, photojournalists will continue to exert their right to report from the conflict zone, regardless of the Israeli regime’s violations against them.