A white bandage covers half of Yahya Al-Amoudi’s face and bright smile as he plays video games. Meanwhile, his siblings ask to play and his older brother Zakariya, 12, pats him on the shoulder every time he walks by.
Yahya lost his eye as the price paid for being a child in the Shuafat refugee camp, where there are constant clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. With their house being so close to the camp’s military checkpoint, the lives of Yahya and his siblings are always at risk.
His mother explained how the incident occurred, describing her panic when she heard that her son was injured. “His sister Amal ran into the house and told me that her brother was hit by a rubber bullet,” she said. “I rushed out without thinking to take my son to Zughayar medical centre near our house. I called my brother who rushed over to help. Yahya had gone to pick up Amal, who’s 5, from school when clashes between the occupation forces and some young men broke out near the checkpoint. He was unable to escape before being hit by a rubber bullet fired by a soldier.”
Yahya’s mother also talked about how the Israeli soldiers hindered her efforts to take Yahya to a medical centre in Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem when she tried to pass through the military checkpoint. The soldiers stopped the Red Crescent ambulance carrying Yahya and asked for his birth certificate, despite the fact that they could see that he was seriously injured. Yahya’s mother told the soldiers repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the clashes that occurred, hoping that they would allow them to pass through the checkpoint. After testing her patience, the soldiers did allow them to pass through and head to the medical centre. There he was referred to Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Centre because of the severity of his injury.
“I couldn’t even tell his father what had happened; one of his friends told him, so he left his job in Tel Aviv and hurried over to the hospital,” said Yayha’s mother. “When the police officer came to question me about the incident, while I was at the hospital, he claimed that Yahya’s injury was caused by a rock thrown by the children at the camp. I denied this and the medical report confirmed that the injury was caused by a rubber bullet. How could a rock cause 11 fractures in the face, the loss of my child’s eye, and break his nose?”
Yahya underwent four operations in his first two days in hospital. It took many hours to remove the left eye, stitch his face and secure the “screws” in his mouth. There was a possibility that his right eye would also be affected, so the doctors put a cast on his nose and platinum in his face to prevent his eyes from moving from their sockets. This made it difficult for him to speak because of the wires in his mouth. The family is waiting for an appointment in Haifa to measure him for a glass eye, rather than a plastic one; the surgery costs about $2,600.
Yahya’s mother expressed her concern about scraping together the money for the next surgery. “The treatment for Yahya’s injury, as well as the cost of transportation to the hospital, his medication and the food for his special diet, is costing us a lot; more than we can afford,” she pointed out. “Any financial help we receive is used to buy Yahya’s medication. He cannot eat anything other than liquids and vitamins prescribed by the doctor. He needs to take his vitamin drink five times a day, but he only drinks it three times a day because that is all we can provide him with. If we cannot gather the money for his upcoming surgery, it will have to be postponed, causing him more harm.”
Yahya’s condition is now much better, thank God, insisted Yahya’s mother. “In the beginning, he was very afraid of the sounds of gas bombs and bullets, and asked us to close the windows; he still does any time clashes occur nearby.” The boy was also terrified of the weapons that the Jewish settlers carry with them at all times, but the presence of his friends and family around him has helped him to regain his courage and patience and has raised his morale significantly. “His uncle held a party for him in the neighbourhood, to which he invited all of his friends, in order to make him feel better. His friends carried him on their shoulders and treated him like a hero. Many of the children came on a daily basis to visit him and check on him.”
Yahya’s family has filed a complaint to prosecute the individual responsible for injuring him, and there is a lot of evidence supporting their claim, such as the medical report which proves his injury, the rubber bullet Yayha was hit with, and video footage documenting the injury. There are also witnesses who were present at the scene. Yahya’s mother explained that there are five documented cases of eye injuries among children in the camp, suggesting strongly that the Israelis target children deliberately.
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