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Yousef al-Kurnz lost a leg covering Gaza’s Great Return March but is not giving up his dream of becoming a photojournalist

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“Basketball is my favorite sport and sometimes I like to play football with my friends in our neighborhood. I am a fitness trainer too. But I don’t know if I will be ever able to play sports again!”

Yousef al-Kurnz, a 20-year-old Gazan photojournalist, lost his left leg after being hit with an explosive bullet from an Israeli sniper while he was covering the Great Return March. It was March 30, the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, and protesters were peacefully marking it as they called for enforcement of paragraph 11 of UN resolution 194, which endorses the right of Palestinians to return to their ancestral homeland.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian men, women, children and the elderly participated that day, representing all political parties and sectors of civil society. Among them were Yousef and two of his fellow journalists; the border is just 1,000 meters away from his house.

“The first thing I did when I arrived was to put on the ‘press’ vest and slip my journalist ID card in my bag,” he recalls. “We were very careful not to go close to the security fence, just to be on the safe side.”

However, that didn’t protect him. At approximately 14:15 (2:15 p.m.), when Yousef was photographing the protesters about 750 meters from the security “fence,” he was hit with a 16-millimeter bullet in his left leg, knocking him down with its force. When Yousef tried to stand up, the sniper fired a second bullet into his right leg. He could no longer stand.

Yousef al-Kurnz

“I didn’t feel much pain when I was shot in my left leg; the Israeli used a silencer weapon and my friends didn’t even notice I was wounded,” he recalls. “But when the sniper shot my right leg, I felt my entire body trembling like electricity was running through it. I shouted, throwing down my camera.”

Yousef was rushed by ambulance to the closest hospital, where he was admitted to intensive care. Despite the lack of sufficiently equipped medical facilities in Gaza, Yusouf was at first refused an Israeli permit to travel out through the Erez crossing. The Rafah crossing into Egypt was closed.

After three days, his doctors decided they had no choice but to amputate his left leg. Two Palestinian-rights advocacy organizations filed an appeal with Israel’s High Court, demanding an urgent permit. Four days later, Yousef finally was allowed to travel to Ramallah to try to save his right leg. (The Adalah and Al-Mezan human rights organizations also appealed for an exit permit for Mohammad al-Ajouri, 17. However, Mohammed was shot in one leg only. His wounded leg already had been amputated by the time of the court hearing, so the permit was not granted.) The court made it clear in its ruling that Yousef’s was an exceptional case, due to the urgent need for treatment, and its ruling would have no bearing on future transfers of patients from Gaza to the West Bank.

“I don’t regret that I went to the demonstration,” says Yousef, who is studying montage and design at university and now is in his freshman year. “I am so proud of my work, I will succeed and I will achieve my dream to be a famous photographer. I still have two hands to hold my camera with.”

Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said that at the time of publication, 33 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli snipers during the Great Return March, including three minors, and another 4,279 have been injured (642 minors and 243 women). Of those, 1,539 were shot with live bullets; 14 have lost legs and four had arms amputated. Yousef was among nine journalists who was shot; one—Yasser Murtaja—died of his wounds.

This post was originally published on the We Are Not Numbers website on April 19, 2018.

Karama Fadel

Karama Fadel is a Gaza-based writer for

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10 Responses

  1. just on April 20, 2018, 12:09 pm

    Thank you Karama Fadel, Abeer Abu al-Naja, and Yousef al-Kurnz.

    How is it even possible to smile so gently, kindly, and brilliantly after all that you’ve endured and are enduring, Yousef? It must be the Palestinian in you and your inherent Sumud… I will always be privileged to be in solidarity with you and your millions of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children, and grands.

    Keep the faith.

  2. just on April 20, 2018, 12:50 pm

    An update:

    “Israeli soldiers open fire on Gaza protesters fourth week in a row

    Israeli forces reportedly kill at least four protesters and wound over 400 as thousands of Palestinians participate in Gaza Return March demonstrations on Friday.

    Update: 7:10 pm

    Palestinian and Israeli media reporting that four Palestinians have been killed during today’s protests in Gaza, among them a 15-year-old boy.

    The Palestinian Ministry of Health is reporting that 445 people have been wounded from live fire and tear gas inhalation during Friday’s protests. …”

    more horrible news here:

    • guyn on April 20, 2018, 4:47 pm

      Thanks Just. Four more murders in cold blood by the most moral army in the world.

      • Misterioso on April 21, 2018, 10:15 am 2018/4/19/rashid_khalidi_the_ israeli_security_establishment

        DEMOCRACY NOW – APRIL 19, 2018

        “Rashid Khalidi: ‘The Israeli Security Establishment is Terrified of a Nonviolent Palestinian Movement.'”

        “Palestinian protests against the Israeli occupation are continuing this week as Israel begins to mark the country’s 70th anniversary of its founding in 1948. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, Israeli forces have killed 33 Palestinian protesters over the past three weeks since the ‘Great March of Return’ protests began to commemorate the mass expulsion of Palestinians during Israel’s establishment. Palestinian authorities estimate nearly 4,300 Palestinians have been injured in the peaceful protests—many were shot with live ammunition or rubber-coated steel bullets. Gaza authorities have also accused Israel of deliberately targeting journalists and medics. Since the protests began, one journalist —Yaser Murtaja—was killed, and 66 journalists were injured. In addition, 44 medics have been wounded, and 19 ambulances were reportedly targeted. The protest marches are set to last to until May 15, recognized as the official Israeli Independence Day. Palestinians mark the date as Nakba Day, or ‘Day of the Catastrophe.’ For more we’re joined by Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books, his most recent is titled ‘Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.’”

        “NERMEEN SHAIKH: This isn’t the first protest of its kind in Israel-Palestine, but is it the first one in which the Israelis have responded so disproportionately?

        “RASHID KHALIDI: It is not the first of its kind. The most underreported story in Palestine is the non-violent nature of an enormous amount of protests. We pay a lot of attention to violent actions. But the first intifada was largely nonviolent. For three or four years, Palestinians were engaged in massive nonviolent protests, which were met with systematic repression. Rabin said ‘Break their bones.’ That was his order to his soldiers when he was defense minister. So it’s not the first time that the Israelis have used this kind of violence. I don’t think that they’ve ever gotten to the point of shooting down literally thousands of people in this way, so maybe that is unprecedented.

        “NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what do you think accounts for that?

        “RASHID KHALIDI: They are very, very worried about two things. They’re worried about the fact that the Palestinians might actually finally realize that nonviolent action is smarter and might be more effective. And secondly, they don’t like one of the demands of this protest movement, which is the issue of return. Because it brings up the issues that the Israelis hoped had been buried from 1948 onwards, which is to say their expulsion of three quarters of a million Palestinians back in April, May and so forth, of 1948, their confiscation of their property and their refusal to allow them to return. And that’s what this March of Return is about.”

  3. gracie fr on April 20, 2018, 3:13 pm

    “Half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone”, said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, Head of Mission of MSF in Palestine. “These patients will need to have very complex surgical operations and most of them will have disabilities for life.”

    Managing these injuries is very difficult. Apart from regular nursing care, patients will often need additional surgery, and undergo a very long process of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. A lot of patients will keep functional deficiencies for the rest of their life. Some patients may yet need amputation if not provided with sufficient care in Gaza and if they don’t manage to get the necessary authorisation to be treated outside of the strip.

    • Maghlawatan on April 20, 2018, 3:41 pm

      That is the price of freedom for people like Jon S and Boris who always use the L’ORÉAL excuse. Because they are worth it.

      • JimMichie on April 21, 2018, 10:11 am

        This is the “price” paid at the hands of brutal, racist, genocidal, ethnic cleansing, land-stealing, fascist, terrorist Zionist Israel!

  4. Marnie on April 21, 2018, 8:32 am

    “Two Palestinian-rights advocacy organizations filed an appeal with Israel’s High Court, demanding an urgent permit. Four days later, Yousef finally was allowed to travel to Ramallah to try to save his right leg.”

    Urgent, and four days later. I imagine the high court went out for drinks after that swift decision. Bastards.

  5. JimMichie on April 21, 2018, 9:48 am

    Today’s update in Electronic Intifada on casualties in Gaza:
    Israel kills child and crushes bones in Gaza

    Why not an update today in Mondoweiss on the carnage in Gaza, “compliments” of Zionist Israel: four murdered, including a 15-year-old and several hundred wounded yesterday, bringing the total to at least 41 murdered and several thousand wounded and injured in Gaza’s Great March of Return. Also, Mondoweiss, why don’t you post these photos (see below) to better illustrate how racist, fascist and terrorist is the Zionist regime in control of both Israel and what little remains of Palestine?

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