Palestinian journalist loses eye after Border Police open fire on West Bank protest

Photojournalist Moath Amarnih was struck by a bullet that likely hit the leg of a protester before ricocheting and hitting him in the head while covering a protest in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli Border officers during a protest against Jewish settlement expansion in Surif, occupied West Bank, November 15, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli Border officers during a protest against Jewish settlement expansion in Surif, occupied West Bank, November 15, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

A Palestinian journalist lost his eye after Israel Border Police officers opened fire at demonstrators in a village near Hebron in the occupied West Bank on Friday. The photojournalist, Moath Amarnih, was wounded while covering confrontations between young Palestinian protesters and police following a demonstration against a settlement’s takeover of land belonging to the Palestinian village of Surif, northwest of Hebron.

According to journalists who were at the scene, Border Police officers used live 0.22 inch Ruger rifle bullets (also known as “two-two” bullets) against the demonstrators, which likely struck the leg of one protester before changing direction and hitting Amarnih, who was standing approximately 150 meters from the officers, in the eye. The officers did not offer him medical aid and delayed his evacuation from the scene. One of the officers filmed Amarnih’s face from up close as he was being carried away by journalists.

“I saw him take a live bullet to the head, I thought he was dead,” said one Palestinian journalist who was standing near Amarnih at the moment he was shot.

For the second week in a row, dozens of Palestinians marched in Surif against the fencing off of their agricultural land in order to expand the adjacent settlement. The villagers attempt to reach the fenced-off land and hold a mass prayer there, yet have not been allowed to enter by Border Police officers, who used tear gas and stun grenades to put down the protest.

A few hundred meters from the site of the protest, several young Palestinians began throwing stones at the officers. “There were around seven young men who threw stones and blocked the dirt path,” the journalist said. “We climbed the hill to avoid the line of fire. After 10 minutes, a soldier shot a Ruger bullet that hit a protester. The bullet passed through his leg, changed direction, and hit Moath, who was not standing behind the stone throwers and the police.”

Ruger bullets generally cause less severe wounds than “ordinary” bullets, yet can still be lethal or inflict serious injuries.

“There were around six young people who threw stones at the police after the protest ended,” said Hazem Bader, a photographer for French media agency AFP. “The bullet, or part of it, flew into his eye. The x-ray showed part of the bullet [in his eye.]”

The officers then filmed Amarnih being carried by Bader and another journalist toward a vehicle; none of the officers offered any aid or assistance. “They saw us carrying him, they did not offer any aid. On the contrary, some of the Border Police officers tried to film and delay him while we were trying carry him. We asked them to move because we were hurrying.”

When they were finally far enough from the officers, Bader administered first aid while other journalists called an ambulance. Bader, who had a first aid kit in his car, cleaned Amarnih’s wound and bandaged his eye. “None of the officers asked whether we needed help, supplies, or to be evacuated. They just stood on and looked.” Amarnih was taken to a hospital in Hebron before being sent to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. After being unable to save his eye, the doctors will try to remove part of the bullet lodged inside his head. “He is lucky, it’s a few millimeters from his brain,” Bader added.

Palestinian cameraman Moath Amarnih seen after being hit in the face by a two-two bullet shot by Israeli Border Police during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the village of Surif northwest of Hebron, West Bank, November 15, 2019. (Flash90)
Palestinian cameraman Moath Amarnih seen after being hit in the face by a two-two bullet shot by Israeli Border Police during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the village of Surif northwest of Hebron, West Bank, November 15, 2019. (Flash90)

According to testimonies from some of those present at the demonstration, the officers did not aim directly at Amarnih, who was wearing a helmet and flak jacket with the word “PRESS” on it. It is unclear why the officers used live fire against such a small number of stone-throwers who were standing approximately 150 meters from them. It is also possible that officers discharged two bullets in a relatively short time span, and that one of them hit the protester while the other bullet hit the ground and ricocheted into Amarnih’s eye.

Following the injury, dozens of Palestinian journalists launched an online solidarity campaign with photos of them covering one of their eye.

In July 2009, following an appeal by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem over the use of Ruger bullets to disperse demonstrations, then-Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit wrote in response that “The ‘Ruger’ and similar measures are not classified as means of dispersing demonstrations or order disturbances. The rules for using these in the Judea and Samaria area [West Bank – O.Z.] are stricter and are analogous to the rules of engagement vis-à-vis live fire.” According to B’Tselem, in practice, soldiers in the field are given the impression that Ruger bullets are neither deadly nor dangerous, but simply another means of dispersing demonstrations.

In response to Amarnih’s injury, Israel Police said the “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 photographer was not shot at any point and his wounds could have been caused by standing among the violent mob. We do everything possible to prevent injuries to innocent people and ask that photographers avoid approaching places that might endanger them. The security establishment will continue to prevent terrorism and restore order wherever required.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

12 responses to “Palestinian journalist loses eye after Border Police open fire on West Bank protest”

  1. Rivka Koen says:

    From Tijuana to Gaza.

  2. Carmen says:

    ‘According to journalists who were at the scene, Border Police officers used live 0.22 inch Ruger rifle bullets (also known as “two-two” bullets) against the demonstrators, which likely struck the leg of one protester before changing direction and hitting Amarnih, who was standing approximately 150 meters from the officers, in the eye. The officers did not offer him medical aid and delayed his evacuation from the scene. One of the officers filmed Amarnih’s face from up close as he was being carried away by journalists.’

    My neighbor friend told me her daughter’s high school history teacher had told the class not to request to serve in the border patrol because it was ‘so bad’. I don’t know if one of the little fascists in the class reported the teacher for, what would they call it – insufficient patriotism, slander or what, but this article and the photo of what appear to be women struck a nerve with me, but can’t complain because I have both eyes, neither containing a bullet. This story is one of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of the same type of incidents. Photographers and press being injured or killed by the IOF while recording a protest. What is it the IOF is so hell bent on not having reported? If there is any justice in this world, this wouldn’t be happening.

    • Lewis from Afula says:

      Good shot !

      • Ray says:

        The guy who wasted Meir Kahane was also a good shot.

        • Lewis from Afula says:

          After mass repatriation to the East Bank, nobody will have any excuses to shoot anyone !

          • Carmen says:

            Why are you always playing the clown? You don’t have any excuse to shoot anyone now LFA, but if your wet dream of expatriating palestinians to your many suggested destinations, how would the settlers squander their spare time? With all the varying degrees of religiosity among the ‘chosen’ people, it won’t be long before they’ll be shooting each other for being too this, not enough that, etc., and women will lose whatever freedoms they’ve attained to the troglodytes in charge. Are you will to die to allow some POS like netanyahoo live out his genocidal fantasies? Are you willing to sacrifice your children on his alter of hatred? Don’t say ‘we didn’t know’.
            You all know and you all don’t give a f@ck.

  3. Itshak Gordine says:

    France used the same type of non-lethal ammunition against Yellow Vest in Paris. Anyone who manifests it at his own risk. And it’s like that everywhere in the world.

    • Ray says:

      Mooooommmm, he did it first, why are you punishing me?!

    • Ben says:

      Aside from the routine “it’s like that everywhere in the world” normalizing-distortion you perpetrate here, with its accompanying racist overlord coldness (you would never ever countenance such methods being used against Jewish settler protesters though you think it just fine to use them against Arab Members of Knesset) there is the elephant in the room you ignore: the yellow vest protesters are citizens, France does not illegally occupy and subjugate them and deprive them of basic legal and human rights, and France pulled out of occupied Algeria a long time ago.

      Halevy, you are incapable of not revealing your racist overlord game in almost every post you write.

      • Itshak Gordine says:

        I have written to you many times that for a good part of the Israelis there is no occupation. Judea and Samaria are part of the historical, national and religious heritage of the Jewish people as their name suggests.. They were released by Israel in 1967 following the aggression of the Hashemite Kingdom. Regarding the events, everyone knows the risks they incur to participate in an unauthorized event, whether in Hong Kong, Lebanon, France or Israel.

        • Ben says:

          Nice to see you included Hong Kong there and tried to blur it with France. Tellingly. It shows where your mind and heart lies, on the side of vicious dictators, occupiers and hegemons everywhere.
          “unauthorized event”: You’ve always displayed a striking cold Orwellianism, a casual, cold East German Stasi mentality. Yes, you have written these things to me many times and this one is no different. The leopard does not change its spots.

  4. carmen says:

    If you’re not guilty, you aren’t afraid of the daylight, of being photographed or written about. Just sayin’. It is a fact that the IOF routinely targets the press and of course medics. What are they trying to hide? Giving Bombom to protesters? Or that they run buck wild among unarmed men, women and children who are protesting as is their right, their duty to do against a ruthless oppressor and of course the oppressor, being a diaper clad ben or bat, shoots with reckless abandom because nothing will happen to them. The ‘army’ investigates it’s own crimes and in this world there’s absolutely nothing fraudulent about that! All the slick and criminal moves of a blight unto the nations.