Palestinians whose eyes are turned off by the occupation ... How have their lives been upended?

 When she lost an eye during her participation in the return marches at the Gaza Strip border with Israel, Jacqueline Shehadeh did not expect her to lose her husband and lose custody of her children as a result.

This happened on November 9, 2018, when Jacqueline, like thousands of other Palestinians, was taking part in a march calling for the right of the Palestinians to return to their lands they lost in 1948.

The return marches that were heading to the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel began in March 2018, and were also calling for the lifting of the Israeli blockade imposed since 2006 on the Strip.

Jacqueline, 31, who has wide brown eyes, believed that return marches should not be restricted to males and that women must have a role. She says she went to the border to shout "Palestine".

"I suddenly felt something hot and hard hitting my eyes, and I lost consciousness," she says. It was a rubber bullet, according to what was later said.

Jacqueline was taken to a medical tent on the spot, before being transferred to the hospital. Doctors were unable to save her left eye, which she no longer saw.

He does not notice her, but she has become a "handicap" in the eyes of her relatives and those around her. Jacqueline's experience is not unique.

And conducted by Agence France-Presse for weeks, interviewed ten Palestinians wounded by the occupation on the sidelines of demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Some of these were taking part in the demonstrations, while others were encountered on the spot. Everyone says that they were targeted by the Israeli occupation army.

After her injury, Jacqueline was not expecting the "harsh" reaction that her family interviewed her.

"I expected that my family and my husband would be proud of me, but the injury affected my home, my children, and my future (...). My family disintegrated, separated from my husband and lost my children."

"Society blames me for going on the march," says the young woman, who lives in a very conservative society.

"I wish I had been a martyr," she said with sadness, "it would have been easier than getting in my eyes."

Jacqueline is trying to remain "strong, but inside I feel broken. This does not appear to people but the injury destroyed me."

The wars that Israel and Hamas fought in 2008, 2012, and 2014 left thousands of wounded. United Nations figures indicate that more than eight thousand Palestinians were injured by live or rubber bullets during two years of marches that continued until the beginning of this year.

Lower body injuries in the legs, knees and thighs constitute 80 percent of all injuries. According to data from the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian NGOs, and other international organizations, three percent were in the neck and head.

Last year, Mai Ruwayda, who had an oval face, was hit with a rubber bullet during a demonstration. "Sometimes I feel sad for myself, the injury will affect my future," she says with a broad smile. May covers her right eye with a white bandage, and, if removed, appears to have a sunken wound that has no eye.

Jerusalem sometimes witnessed clashes in neighborhoods of the eastern part, such as Issawiya and Shuafat, which Israel occupied in 1967, and later annexed in a move not recognized by international law.

In February, the nine-year-old Malik Issa did not know that the sandwich he had decided to buy from an Isawiya restaurant after he got off the school bus would cause him to lose his eye.

On that day, Malik's older sister, Tala called her parents, and asked them to meet her with her brother to the place where the school bus stops.

It was a quiet day, and the family asked Tala to walk to the house, which is about two hundred meters away. Five minutes later, Tala called her parents again crying and crying, "Malik was hit in the forehead." Malek’s father says, “I said to myself, Malik was shot in the eye.”

The neighborhood's youths transferred Malik to the hospital and his parents ran to him, to find an open wound on the front of their child, which has not yet fully healed, with a cavity in his left eye.

Father Wael says, "My son is polite, and he has a good education at school." "But a soldier arrived at the village and was shot (...) They want to kill parents by attacking their children."

During the meeting, Malik, the owner of the glass eye, sat on the sofa, carrying his father's smartphone. "This is not the owner that we know. It has changed a lot," says the father, who works in the restaurant business in Tel Aviv.

"Malik begins to cry when he goes to sleep and screams. I want my eyes, give me my eyes back, I try to explain to him that this is the will of God."

For many years, Moaz Amarneh practiced photojournalism and covered countless protests in the occupied West Bank.

But on November 15, 2019, he changed his life. On that day, Amarneh walked out of his house carrying his video camera, urgently heading to cover a Palestinian demonstration against the "confiscation" of land by Israel in the village of Surif in the southern West Bank.

Moaz, who worked as a freelance reporter, was wearing a shield that reads in English "Journalism", and a helmet.

In Surif, everything seemed calm. Moaz says that the IDF "did not fire even tear gas."

He said, "There was a sniper preparing his weapon talking to the officer. I didn't understand anything, but they were laughing."

He says he felt "the soldiers were provoking us journalists." "Then, I felt that something hit my face, as if my head was shaking. (...) I saw blood on my face, and I fell on my knees."

He heard a soldier say to him, "Your injury was caused by the terrorists, not us." He says he is convinced, "My injury was intentional. They did not target me as a pain, but they wanted to hit a journalist."

Amarneh was hit by a rubber bullet, which left him with his left eye replaced by a glass one.

After the incident, a campaign of solidarity with Amarna was launched on social media, and journalists took pictures of themselves covering their left eye, and published it under the slogan "Eye of Truth".

The 30-year-old photojournalist has not returned to work since he was injured about six months ago. "As a photographer, it is impossible to work with one eye. I need an eye pointed on the viewfinder and another outside," he said.

"I feel like my life is over."

 

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