This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 18 November 2019.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Israel’s use of live rounds to disperse protests after a Palestinian journalist lost an eye when Israeli police fired at Palestinians protesting in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on 15 November. Such practices expose reporters to direct danger, RSF said.
Freelance photographer Moath Amarnih has lost the use of his left eye as a result of being hit by a ricocheting bullet while covering the protest in Surif, a village near the city of Hebron. He was clearly identifiable as a journalist because he was wearing a helmet and a vest with the word “PRESS.”
According to the +972 Magazine news website, the police fired 0.22-inch Ruger rifle bullets, which the Israeli authorities regard as non-lethal. Amarnih, who was about 150 metres from the police at the time, was probably hit in the eye by the bullet after it ricocheted off the leg of one of the demonstrators, the website said.
“Although the Israeli authorities regard it as non-lethal, using this kind of bullet to break up protests causes real injuries and exposes journalists to serious risks,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Instead of just dispersing demonstrators, the use of live rounds endangers reporters covering protests and this case shows that the reporters can even be left with a permanent disability.”
The Israeli police denied targeting journalists in Surif. In a statement, they said: “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 statement added: “We do everything possible to prevent injuries to innocent people and ask that photographers avoid approaching places that might endanger them.”
According to the information gathered by RSF, the doctors at the Jerusalem hospital where Amarnih was taken are concerned about the fragments still lodged in a sensitive part of his eye, but are wary of operating because of its proximity to his brain.
Amarnih is the second Palestinian journalist to have lost the use of an eye this year. The first was Al-Aqsa TV’s Sami Misran, who was injured by Israeli gunfire while filming a demonstration near a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on 19 July.
Israel is ranked 88th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
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Source: MEDIA FEED