Loss of vision for the future: Palestinians blind in one eye

When Jacqueline Shahada closed her eyes during a Palestinian demonstration on the Gaza border, she never imagined she would lose her husband and children.

It was November 2001, and every Friday for more than six months, thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Gaza-Israel border, fleeing the creation of Israel in 1948, seeking the right to return to their ancestral lands.

Protesters burned tires and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces on the far side of the heavily guarded border as they responded to the fire.

Jacqueline, in her thousands of viewers, was a modest, veiled woman in her early 30s. Although the protests were dominated by men, they also asserted the right to participate as women.

"All of a sudden, something in my eye seemed to be burning and I was unconscious," he said. He was hit with a rubber bullet, and despite medical treatment, doctors were unable to protect his left eye.

His injury is now barely visible - a slight glare from the tears in Iris - but his life has been destroyed in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

His experience was very general, and the AFP met with 10 Palestinians who lost their eyes after the Israeli military shot down Gaza, Jerusalem or the West Bank.

Some are involved in skirmishes, while others are in the wrong place at the wrong time. While the Palestinian community was wounded while standing up for the Israeli occupation, all survived and were doomed with their lives.

On the border of the Gaza Strip, Israel uses military snipers who, according to the instructions, fire at soldiers who are at risk of escalating violence from the Palestinian riots.

When asked about the use of live fire, along with Jacqueline's case, the Israeli military highlighted the "security challenge."

"Every possible action has been taken to reduce the number of injuries among Gaza residents who have been involved in this violent riot."

An Israeli senior military official said, "Burning tires, gas and running crowds emit smoke. Snipers are some distance away, difficult."

Jacqueline, who practices math, has hurt herself. Her children teased at school about her disabled mother, and her husband was cold and angry.

"The community and people blame me. They say: '(As a woman) why did you go to protest?'

"I expected my family and husband to be proud of me, but I paid a high price," he told AFP in Gaza. "My husband divorced me and I lost my children."

“It would be nice if I lost an arm, but without an eye, how can you live your life?

“I want to challenge the whole world, to be strong, but inside I am broken,” she said.

Residents suffered severe injuries in 2008, 2012 and 2014 after three wars with Israel, under the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and over two million people.

When there is no full conflict, the violence still escalates. More than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli gunfire during the "History of Return" protests that began in March 2018, according to United Nations figures.

Of those injuries, 80 percent were in the lower body and only 3 percent per head.

In Jerusalem, although there is no full-scale conflict, there are tensions in the occupied Israeli city of 1967, mainly in the eastern part of Palestine, such as Shufat and Isavia.

Residents complain of increased violence from Israeli police, saying it was responding to rising unrest.

In recent years, police have used soft synthetic rubber bullets, which are theoretically considered less lethal. But when fired close, they are believed to be the cause of death.

In February, nine-year-old boxer Malek Issa was hit with a rubber-covered bullet after buying a sandwich at a shop in Isaia.

As he was walking home from school, his older sister Tala immediately told his father, Well, that Malek had a bullet in his forehead.

"I immediately thought, 'No, he should have shot him in the eye,'" Wall said. "I just stayed there and froze for a few minutes."

Malek was taken to a hospital, where his parents found him, decapitated him, and his left eye became hollow.

"My son is polite, intelligent, and gets good grades in school. But this soldier came and shot him. He didn't fire my son. He shot the whole family," Wall said.

Malek, who now has a glassy eye, extends mercilessly to the bed next to his father.

"This is not the Malek we know, it has changed a lot," said Well, who works in a restaurant in Tel Aviv. "Malek cries at night. I want my eye. I want my eye."

"I tried to convince him that this was God's will," he said, adding that the family was struggling to understand why Malek was shot in the face of no protest.

When contacted by the AFP, Israel's Ministry of Justice said it had opened an "internal investigation" into the case.

Over the years, independent cameraman Muth Amrenh has covered a number of protests in the occupied West Bank.

On November 15 last year, he grabbed his video camera, donned a helmet and set out for a Palestinian demonstration in the southern press village of Surif, a shirt inscribed with the word 'press'.

"There was a sniper ready to fire his weapon. He told the officer something that I didn't understand, but they were laughing," he said.

"I thought something was going to happen to us. The soldiers were pushing us, journalists.

"Then I felt something hit my face, and my head fell off," he said.

"I saw blood on my face. I got down on my knees."

Witnesses said a rubber bullet had been stuck inside. The scan shows that there was some metal left inside the excavated eye cavity, which now has a glass eye.

Israeli officials say they are not targeting the journalist, but Muth is confident that his injury is a metaphor for a fight others do not want to see.

"It sends a message that my pain depends on the pictures we take. Either you act like you or you die."

The injury sparked protests, with Palestinian and Arab journalists using the "Eye of Truth" slogan.

Months later, when she was in her 30s, Muth was not back to work, still suffering from mysterious migraines and she feels "life is over."

"It's impossible to work with one eye as a cameraman. You need one eye on the camera lens, one eye on the outside."

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