Donning eye patches, Palestinian journalists protest blinding of colleague
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Donning eye patches, Palestinian journalists protest blinding of colleague

Muath Amarneh believes he was hit by IDF rubber bullet or stone while covering West Bank clashes; Israel denies targeting him

Palestinian journalists wear eye patches as they gather for a demonstration by Israel's security barrier in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on November 17, 2019, while holding posters of and signs in solidarity with Palestinian cameraman Mu'ath Amarneh, who, days before, was injured in his eye by a rubber bullet while covering clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, in a West Bank demonstration. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Palestinian journalists wear eye patches as they gather for a demonstration by Israel's security barrier in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on November 17, 2019, while holding posters of and signs in solidarity with Palestinian cameraman Mu'ath Amarneh, who, days before, was injured in his eye by a rubber bullet while covering clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, in a West Bank demonstration. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

“The eyes of truth will never be blinded,” protesters’ placards read, as Palestinian journalists wore eye patches Sunday to decry the wounding of a colleague in the West Bank.

Muath Amarneh has been in an Israeli hospital since he was hit in the eye on Friday, during clashes between border police and Palestinian demonstrators in the village of Surif, close to Hebron in the southern West Bank.

Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied Sunday — protesting with one eye covered in solidarity.

Amarneh, who is being treated in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, said he was some distance from the protesters when he was hit by what he believes was Israeli fire.

Palestinian journalists hold posters and wear eye patches as they rally in the West Bank city of Nablus on November 17, 2019, in solidarity with Palestinian cameraman Mu’ath Amarneh, who, days before, was injured in his eye by a rubber bullet, while covering clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in a West Bank demonstration. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

“After the clashes started, I was standing to the side wearing a flak jacket with press markings and a helmet,” the freelance cameraman told AFP on Sunday.

“Suddenly, I felt something hit my eye, I thought it was a rubber bullet or a stone. I put my hand to my eye and found nothing.

Palestinian journalists help an injured comrade into a car, so that he can be removed from the scene, for relief, following a demonstration alongside Israel’s security barrier in Bethlehem in the West Bank on November 17, 2019 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

“I couldn’t see and my eye was completely gone.”

He said doctors at the hospital told him a fragment of metal, about two centimeters (nearly an inch) long, pierced the eye and settled behind it near the brain.

Amarneh’s cousin Tareq, accompanying him in the hospital, said doctors planned to extract the metal, but changed their minds after discovering they could also damage the right eye or even trigger bleeding in the brain.

A spokesman for the Israeli police denied that the photographer was targeted, saying fire was “not directed at all” toward him.

“The security forces operated in the area in front of dozens of rioters, some of them masked, who threw stones at officers and burned tires,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

“The response by the forces was using non-lethal means in order to disperse the rioters.”

Photo and video journalists walk through tear gas fumes fired during a demonstration by Palestinian journalists alongside Israel’s security barrier in Bethlehem in the West Bank on November 17, 2019. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Amarneh, who comes from the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, claimed he was targeted as a journalist.

“There is an unnatural and ugly targeting of journalists,” the father of two said.

Since the incident, Palestinian journalists have launched a campaign, with protests in several cities in the West Bank.

In Bethlehem on Sunday, border police dispersed a sit-in by journalists at the checkpoint north of the city.

Demonstrators wore eye patches and held signs aloft.

Tear gas canisters were fired by border police, the journalist said.

Seven people were lightly wounded, according to Palestinian health officials.

In the city of Tulkarem, about 250 journalists took part in a sit-in to show solidarity, according to journalists present.

An Israeli border guard scuffles with Palestinian journalists gathering during a demonstration alongside Israel’s security barrier in Bethlehem in the West Bank on November 17, 2019, in solidarity with Palestinian cameraman Mu’ath Amarneh. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

A video and photos of Amarneh spread immediately after his injury, with journalists trying to carry him with blood flowing from his left eye.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says 60 journalists have been hit by live ammunition this year, the majority in Gaza — an enclave where violent weekly protests along the border often lead to dozens of demonstrators being wounded.

Israel says the border demonstrations are being orchestrated by Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.

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