A Palestinian press photographer was blinded in one eye on Friday by a bullet fired by border policemen while he was covering a demonstration in the Palestinian village of Surif near Hebron in the West Bank.
The 32-year-old photographer, Muad Amarna, who lives in the Dheisheh refugee camp, said he had been was standing at a distance from a group of young people who were throwing stones at the police at the time because he didn’t want to put himself in the line of fire. Police said he was not targeted and may have been too close to the clash, which it said involved dozens of rioters.
Law enforcement released a video that purportedly shows the photographer standing near the rioters. Other photographers at the scene said Amarna was hit in the eye by a ricocheting bullet that had first struck the ground.
Amarna underwent eye surgery at Hadassah University Hospital at Ein Karem in Jerusalem and is still in the hospital awaiting other operation.
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The incident inspired journalists worldwide to post photos of themselves with one eye covered as a show of solidarity with Amama.
“In contrast to what was claimed,” police said, “security forces confronted dozens of lawbreakers, some of them masked, who were throwing stones and burning tires. The forces used riot-dispersal methods in accordance with procedure after obtaining the necessary permission. The photographer was not targeted and his injury may have resulted from his proximity to the violent demonstrators. ... We wish the photographer a speedy recovery and call on journalists who cover violent incidents to do so without compromising their safety in complex and violent locations of this kind.”
Amarna, a freelance photographer, was wearing a bulletproof vest that identified him as a member of the press. He was also wearing a helmet while covering the demonstration, where Palestinians were protesting land expropriations and the expansion of West Bank settlements near their villages.
He said he was injured after the demonstration dispersed, when some protesters began throwing stones. “My eye is gone. I can’t see anything,” he said.
Amarna was first taken to a hospital in the West Bank Palestinian town of Bethlehem, where it was found that he had a metal fragment from a bullet had penetrated his head. He was then transferred to Hadassah Hospital.
A video taken by the Palestinian Al-Quds news agency shows a border policeman approaching Amarna after he was hit and photographing Amarna from close up, without offering him assistance.
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate condemned the incident and appealed to the International Federation of Journalists and other professional organizations to intervene to protect journalists covering such clashes.