The shooting of a Palestinian journalist in the occupied West Bank has sparked local and international outrage against the Israeli military, which has been documented as frequently targeting journalists across the territories.
32-year-old Muath Amarneh was hit with a bullet in his left eye while he was covering clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli border police forces in the Hebron-area town of Surif on Friday.
Amarneh was wearing a press vest and helmet at the time, and surrounded by other journalists who were covering the protests.
“Suddenly I felt something hit my eye, I thought it was a rubber bullet or a stone,” Amarneh told AFP on Sunday. “I put my hand to my eye and found nothing. I couldn’t see and my eye was completely gone.”
Amarneh’s family and friends have claimed that he was targeted by a sniper, while other journalists present at the scene told local media that Amarneh was hit by a bullet that ricocheted off the ground.
Israeli border police have denied that they targeted Amarneh, saying they only used “nonlethal” dispersal methods on the crowd, and that Amarneh was accidentally hit due to his proximity to the protesters.
Videos from the scene show fellow journalists carrying a disoriented Amarneh off to safety, while an Israeli border police officer films them, providing them no medical assistance.
Amarneh was transported to a local hospital in Bethlehem before being transferred to the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Local media quoted his relatives as saying that he had lost vision in his injured eye, and would be needing multiple surgeries in the coming days.
A graphic photo of Amarneh with a bloodied eye, still wearing his press gear and clutching his camera, was widely circulated in the media following the shooting.
Palestinian journalists and activists flooded social media with photos of themselves covering one eye with their hands or patches, alongside messages of solidarity.
The social media campaign caught the attention of international journalists, who joined it with similar photos of themselves under the hashtags “We are all Muath” and “The eye of the truth will not be shut”.
Protests and sit-ins were organized across the West Bank and Gaza in solidarity with Amarneh and other journalists who have been injured and killed by Israeli forces over the years.
Dozens of journalists and activists took to the streets, covering their eyes and holding protest signs, in Amarneh’s hometown of Bethlehem to protest the shooting of their colleague.
Akram al-Waara, a Palestinian freelance journalist and frequent contributor for Mondoweiss who was covering the solidarity protest in Bethlehem on Sunday said that Israeli forces were “firing tear gas and sound bombs like crazy” at the crowd.
“They suppressed the protest pretty quickly and went after a lot of people trying to detain them,” he said, adding “any journalist filming the protest was getting targeted.”
He added that several people were treated for severe tear gas inhalation, and a handful of others were detained for a number of hours before being released.
Palestinian journalists frequently report abuse at the hands of Israeli forces, including everything from arrest and censorship to serious injury and death.
The last time an injury of a Palestinian journalist caught this much attention was last year, when Israeli snipers shot and killed photographer Yasser Murtaja while he was wearing his press vest during Great March of Return protests in Gaza.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) released a statement condemning the shooting of Amarneh, saying: “The aggression of the occupation forces against Amarneh comes as part of a series of attacks by the occupation forces against Palestinian journalists in order to suppress them and prevent them from covering the continuation of the occupation of the Palestinian people.”