Second Palestinian journalist dies of wounds from IDF sniper fire

Ahmed Abu Hussein was shot by Israeli snipers during a protest near the Gaza-Israel border two weeks ago. He was standing at a distance from the fence and was wearing a PRESS jacket.

Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein is seen receiving medical treatment after being shot by an Israeli sniper during a protest on the Gaza border, April 13, 2018.
Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein is seen receiving medical treatment after being shot by an Israeli sniper during a protest on the Gaza border, April 13, 2018.

Ahmed Abu Hussein, a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza who was shot by Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, died of his wounds on Wednesday at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel. Abu Hussein is the second Gazan journalist to be killed by IDF snipers over the past month, and one of 40 Palestinians killed during the Great Return March protests.

On Friday April 13, Abu Hussein, a 24-year-old from Jabaliya refugee camp, went to take photographs of the protest next to the Gaza-Israel border fence. His mother told +972 that he had been working with a small photo agency named Bisan, and according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Abu Hussein had worked for a radio station linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (it is yet unclear whether he worked for both places at the same or separately).

Abu Hussein was wearing a PRESS jacket — and was standing with a group of photographers near a press tent at the Great Return March encampment — when an Israeli sniper’s bullet pierced his abdomen, disrupting the blood flow to his brain, eventually leading to cerebral palsy. His mother says he was struck by a hollow-point bullet, which expands as it hits its target in order to cause maximum damage. This is the same kind of bullet that has been used against dozens of those who have been killed and maimed during demonstrations in Gaza over the past month.

It took two days before Israel allowed Abu Hussein to be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah, since the hospitals in the Gaza Strip were unable to help him. After four days in Ramallah, where his condition continued to worsen, he was transferred last Thursday to Tel Hashomer — one of the few wounded Palestinians who was allowed to enter Israel for medical treatment — despite explicit orders from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the IDF Southern Command, and the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which forbid allowing in Palestinians wounded by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations. The doctors at Tel Hashomer told Abu Hussein’s mother that he was not expected to survive past the weekend.

It is possible that the fact that Abu Hussein was a journalist, and the international outcry that followed the killing of journalist Yaser Murtaja (who was friends with Abu Hussein, according to the latter’s mother), was what led to his eventual entry.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Israeli snipers have shot at least 13 journalists in Gaza over the past weeks. In the wake of the violence, journalists in Gaza are demanding that the international community intervene in order to protect them:

“Ahmed had always expected this could happen to him,” his mother told me. She is the only family member who was allowed into Israel with him, spending every day with him and sleeping on benches in the hospital. “The situation in Gaza is difficult. There is no work. But Ahmed always had ambition and he wanted to progress. His friends offered him this job, and he would write and photograph for the agency and send materials for publication.”

Abu Hussein’s mother, 45, has spent these last few days almost entirely by herself. Every once in a while, journalists — almost all of them Arabs — would come to visit and show support. MK Haneen Zoabi also visited the hospital to lend her support and try to help. The mother said that Ahmed, who was not married, was her oldest son. She has two other children, a 21-year-old daughter who is studying at a university, and a 17-year-old who is still in high school.

Ahmed Abu Hussein's mother seen at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel, April 24, 2018. (Kholod Massalha)
Ahmed Abu Hussein’s mother seen at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel, April 24, 2018. (Kholod Massalha)

COGAT provided the following response following Abu Hussein’s death:

First, by virtue of the fact that the State of Israel is a sovereign state, it has the right to decide who will enter. Foreign residents have no vested right to enter Israeli territory, including Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. According to directives by COGAT and the IDF Southern Command, any request for medical treatment by a terrorist operative or a rioter who took part in violent events will be denied.

However, exceptional humanitarian cases are examined on the basis of an assessment of the security situation and in accordance with the discretion of the local commander. Since the beginning of the violent disturbances on the Gaza border, several requests for medical treatment have been approved, including the request of journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein.

COGAT did not respond to +972’s questions about the precise number of entry permits that were given to Gazans.

Update: The IDF Spokesperson’s office denied that the army has used hollow-point bullets against the protests in Gaza.