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Israel denies injured Palestinian photographer entry for treatment

Xinhua journalist Nidal Shtayyeh says he was shot in eye while covering protest, but not allowed to visit East Jerusalem specialist

A Palestinian man walks toward the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)
A Palestinian man walks toward the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)

Israel has barred a Palestinian photographer allegedly shot in the eye by an Israeli soldier from entering East Jerusalem for specialist treatment, he told AFP on Wednesday.

Nidal Shtayyeh, who works for Chinese news agency Xinhua, was wounded while covering a small demonstration at Hawara checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on May 16.

As he was covering the rally, Shtayyeh was hit in the face by a rubber bullet which entered his eye, causing serious damage, he told AFP.

“The march was peaceful and no stones were thrown, no photographers were taking any pictures,” he said, accusing soldiers of firing stun grenades at the photographers without any provocation.

“I raised my camera to my right eye to take a picture, but a soldier shot me in my left eye with his rifle, and the rubber bullet went through my gas mask’s glass eye cover and into my eye.”

An Italian camerawoman was also injured during the same demonstration which came as Palestinians marked “Nakba”, or “catastrophe,” as they term the creation of Israel and subsequent displacement of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in 1948.

At the time, the army said at least 100 Palestinians had been throwing stones and fire bombs, and that troops had responded with “riot dispersal means”.

Shtayyeh was rushed to Rafidiya hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus for initial treatment but was prescribed specialist help at St John’s eye hospital in East Jerusalem.

As a Palestinian living in the West Bank, Shtayyeh had to apply for an Israeli permit to enter Jerusalem.

But Israeli authorities turned down his request.

He tried again two more times — once through the Red Cross and once through a private Israeli lawyer. But both requests were rejected.

Contacted by AFP, a spokeswoman for the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body that manages civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, confirmed his request had been rejected by the Shin Bet security agency, without saying why.

A doctor who examined Shtayyeh on behalf of COGAT determined that his case was not urgent, she said, suggesting he resubmit the request a week in advance of his desired entry date.

Xinhua did not respond to AFP’s requests for a comment on the incident.

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