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Analysis News

PHOTOS: Israeli troops shoot Palestinian photographer in the face

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES

Israeli soldiers target a Palestinian photographer who was taking pictures of them invading Aida Refugee Camp, shooting him in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet. 

Mohammad Al-Azza rests in the hospital the morning after being shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli forces in Aida Refguee Camp. Beit Jala, West Bank, April 9, 2013. Al-Azza underwent two surgeries to remove the bullet, which lodged in his cheek below his right eye and fractured his skull. He is expected to make a full recovery. (photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

At about 5:30 p.m. Monday, Israeli soldiers entered Aida Refugee Camp through a gate in the separation wall dividing Rachel’s Tomb from Bethlehem. There were no clashes at the time, and their presence in the camp was not provoked, but was itself a provocation.

Mohammad Al-Azza began photographing the advancing soldiers from the second-floor balcony of the Lajee Center, a children’s center near the camp entrance where he has long volunteered in the media unit. He was eager to use the center’s new camera, a Canon 600D with a 50-250mm zoom lens.

Israeli troops approach Aida Refugee Camp from their base behind the separation wall near Rachel’s Tomb. (photo by: Guest photographer Mohammad Al-Azza)

As he was photographing, one of the soldiers shouted at him in Arabic to “Go home!” Mohammad replied, “Why? I’m only taking pictures!” The soldiers continued shouting at him, “Go inside! Go inside!”

Mohammad replied, “No, I will not go! As you have a gun and shoot at children, I have a camera and I’m taking pictures—I do nothing to you!”

The soldiers, who became angrier continued threatening Mohammad with their guns. Mohammad decided to go inside, but continued taking photos through the window and through the doorway opened just wide enough for his camera lens to fit through.

The last photo taken by Mohammad Al-Azza before he was shot in the face by the soldier pictured. (photo by: Guest photographer Mohammad Al-Azza)

By this time, a few youth from the camp were throwing stones, while the soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas grenades into the camp. However, with many arrests and shootings by Israeli forces in the camp in recent months, the response from camp residents was smaller than usual. Two children in the Aida Camp have been shot with live ammunition by Israeli forces in recent months, one of them fatally.

About 10 minutes after Mohammad had exited the balcony, a soldier with a tear gas gun shouted again at Mohammad to stop taking photos through the partially opened door. His final photo, above, shows a soldier aiming an M16 rifle outfitted for rubber bullets. As Mohammad turned to leave the doorway, this soldier fired a rubber-coated steel bullet which penetrated Mohammad’s cheek below the right eye and fractured his skull.

Mohammad Al-Azza receives emergency treatment in a Beit Jala hospital after being shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli forces in Aida Refguee Camp. (photo by: Guest photographer Mohammed Al-Azraq)

Despite the seriousness of his injury, Mohammad remained conscious, and a friend who was in the room with him helped him down the stairs to the center’s front door. But with the soldiers still outside, the two were afraid to leave. After a few minutes, Mohammad, who complained of feeling dizzy and was afraid he was losing too much blood, wanted to leave to find help. But when they tried to leave the center, soldiers shot the door with more rubber-coated steel bullets. His friend shouted at the soldiers, “He’s dying! You killed him!” When the soldiers allowed them to open the door and saw the blood covering Mohammad’s face, they retreated a few paces and allowed the two to leave. The two then fled on foot into the refugee camp, where they found someone with a car to take Mohammad to the hospital.

Drops of blood stain the stairs of Lajee Center in Aida Refugee Camp, a children’s center where Mohammad Al-Azza was shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli forces the previous night. (photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

His camera, now stained with blood, remained in his hands until they reached the hospital, where his friend took photos of his condition—but only after Mohammad helped him to adjust the settings to get a proper exposure.

He was soon transferred to the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation hospital in Beit Jala, where he underwent two surgeries to remove the bullet lodged in his face. Though the bullet fractured his cheekbone, and further surgeries will be required to repair the damage, he is expected to make a full recovery without serious permanent damage.

Mohammad Al-Azza is visited by his mother in a Beit Jala hospital the morning after being shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet by Israeli forces in Aida Refguee Camp, April 9, 2013. Al-Azza underwent two surgeries to remove the bullet, which lodged in his cheek below his right eye and fractured his skull. He is expected to make a full recovery. (photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Related:
IDF soldiers launch attack on photojournalists
IDF defends attack on journalists in Nabi Saleh

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Saj

      Amandlah
      ngwethu
      MASHALLAH BRAVO MUHAMAD and to the israelies we demand answers.where is freedom of press?

      Reply to Comment
    2. American Me

      It would seem that, since the soldier is using a scope, he deliberately aimed for the head. Doesn’t the IDF have policies to forbid that?

      Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Awful. They know those things can kill – thanks to 5 Broken Cameras everyone knows that – and still they use them at close range.

      Speedy and complete recovery, Mohammed Al-Azza.

      Reply to Comment
    4. This happened on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

      Reply to Comment
      • Llyn Kidner-Williams

        It happened on Holocaust Memorial Day…………So what is your point Mr. Horesh?

        Reply to Comment
        • pat

          it seems to me this adds irony to outrage

          Reply to Comment
    5. The Pomelo Bandid

      Wish we can do something against this..

      Reply to Comment
    6. foresomenteneikona

      It may be interesting to note that Aida Camp is in Area A, and so in principle the IDF should not be making frequent raids into the camp.

      To get an idea of the kind of work that the Lajee Center does, one can view http://www.leicester-holyland.org.uk/Lajee.htm

      Reply to Comment
      • American Me

        It says that one of their aims is to “Support and sustain Palestinian Christian communities”.

        When I talk to an ardent “end times” Christian, these examples of Palestinian Christians (especially children) are very powerful in breaking through the militant pro-Zionist attitude. I also bring up the work of CPT.org.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Yes, on Yom ha-Shoah. The victims have become victimizers and, in a sense, Palestinians are Hitler’s last victims. An additional travesty is use of the Shoah to claim unassailable virtue for Israel. This, like Holocaust denial, must be resisted.

      Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        What has the Holocaust got to do with the shooting of a photographer.
        During the British Mandate of Palestine, the only Palestinians happened to be Jews.
        The Arabs as Palestinians only happened in the late 1950s’.
        Israel was created despite the Holocaust, not because of it.
        Study some objective history

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          What it has to do with it is that Holocaust resulted from dehumanizing of a people. The way the Palestinians are dehumanizing in the eyes of Israelis.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            The only difference is that Jews never massacred Germans.

            Reply to Comment
          • mike panzone

            they massacred the canaanites though.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            There is no historic evidence of region-wide massacre which could have occured at the time.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gearoid

            Careful…

            There is little to no evidence to support most of the nationalist Israeli narrative of history.

            You are right that there is no evidence for any sort of massacre of “Canaanites”. It’s just that there is also no evidence of the United Monarchy, or David, or Solomon, or monotheism prior to circa 650 BCE. Doesn’t really fit well with the ultra-nationalist narratives pushed by many right wing Jews.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >It’s just that there is also no evidence of the United Monarchy, or David, or Solomon, or monotheism prior to circa 650 BCE. Doesn’t really fit well with the ultra-nationalist narratives pushed by many right wing Jews.

            There is no evidence that Muhammad had ever visited Jerusalem, or that Yeshua ha-Notzri was ever on trial by a Roman procurator.

            Is it only Jews who are not allowed to believe in their scriptures?

            Reply to Comment
    8. The most charitable view would be that the soldier feared the camera would be replaced with a rifle. Irregardless of this, the photographer’s motives were purely nonviolent. Such motives will at some point lead to a death. Soldiers, young, with adrenaline, trained to care for their own and consider the populace potential enemies, will act to reduce felt risk however they can.

      It will not matter that sometimes there might be a gun. Pure motives will eventually be snuffed out, and there will be consequences. The present occupation is not stable. Impossible situations will escalte.

      At least the soldiers back off upon realizing the damage and let the wounded photographer be taken to hospital. There are many conflicts in this conflct, and this photographer is a soldier of truth.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >There are many conflicts in this conflct, and this photographer is a soldier of truth.

        There are many truths to this conflict.

        Arab truth is that Jews have no right for homeland in the Holy Land of Palestine.
        Jewish truth is that Jews have right to have homeland in Judea and Samaria.

        Reply to Comment
        • laila

          I think that Palestinian truth and aspiration is that Palestinians have right to live in peace, security, freedom of movement and access to resources in the land of their parents and grandparents. (you know, is not always all about the Jews)

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >…is that Palestinians have right to live in peace … in the land of their parents and grandparents.
            (you know, is not always all about the Jews)

            It was not the Palestinian aspiration in 1919 or 1947, nothing has changed since which would suggest that it has became their aspiration now.

            Reply to Comment
      • The truth of a photographer is who get shot, who gets harmed, and how.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          14 words, 0 bits of information.

          Reply to Comment
    9. truthseeker

      I can’t believe all the hooliganism that’s going on in the comments forum, the Palestinian photographer was clearly and deliberately acting out of line after he was told to stop photographing a sensitive security operation. The soldiers would have said the same thing to any other photographer. Quit blaming the “poor Palestinian” who probably knew what was going to happen if he didn’t listen, and was probably hoping to draw attention in the first place. The IDF, like every other army in the world, has the right to keep certain operations out of the public eye for security reasons.

      Reply to Comment
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