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Ben Wedeman talks with from his hospital bed

October 31, 2000
Web posted at: 4:28 p.m. EST (2128 GMT)

Ben Wedeman
Ben Wedeman  

CNN Cairo bureau chief Ben Wedeman is recovering in a hospital in Gaza after being shot Tuesday while covering a clash between Palestinians and Israelis near the Karni crossing point between Gaza and Israel. He describes what happened in the moments before he was shot.

WEDEMAN: We arrived from Jerusalem around noon. We heard there were clashes at the Karni junction, so we went out there. It was my first time there. I had been to other places in Gaza where there had been clashes, but never here. We saw that there were a lot of young men on the right-hand side of the road leading up to the Israeli position, taking cover behind a row of houses that turned to the left. There were two cameramen from the Associated Press. We spoke to them. They said yeah, there was shooting, some in their direction, coming from the direction of the Israeli position.

But it was relatively quiet. I didn't see anyone throwing stones. Clearly there had been some sort of exchange earlier. Whether that was with stones, I honestly don't know. There was occasional gunfire, but nothing in our direction and nothing particularly intense. So, we went down the left-hand side of the road, which goes down into a small depression. There's an olive grove there, and we set up the camera.

Almost within minutes, intense gunfire broke out, most of it appeared to be coming from the Israeli side. This went on for quite some time. At the same time, there were explosive rounds incoming. What their source was I just don't know, but they seemed to be moving gradually (toward us) and that was a little too close for comfort. One landed about 15-20 meters in this olive grove away from us.

At that point, there was intense firing all the time and clearly it was the time not to be there. I decided to leave, but to wait until there was some diminution in the level of shooting. I can't recall if it was five minutes or 10 minutes, but things quieted down a little bit.

I casually stood up and was preparing to pick up the tripod of the camera and walk away from the Israeli position. In the process, I felt as if someone had just hit me in the lower right-hand side of my back with a sledgehammer.

I fell to the ground. I felt behind me, and I could tell I had been hit. There was a young man, maybe 17 years old next to me who was also pinned down. He was the only person in that area with us. Both he and I started shouting in Arabic for an ambulance.

An ambulance came rushing down, took me to a field hospital where they sort of had a quick look at the wound and shot me up with painkillers. From there, I was taken to the Shifa Hospital, the main hospital in Gaza.

Q: What went through your mind when it happened?

WEDEMAN: When it happened, I immediately realized I had been hit. I was lying on the ground. My first instinct, with the way I was hit, was, "Am I paralyzed?" I wiggled my toes and I wiggled my hands, and I didn't really feel as if the bullet had gone into anything vital.

I just felt this dull pain as if somebody had kicked me in my side with a steel-toed boot. My first reaction was, "Am I OK?" When somebody gets hit in the abdomen area, there is all sorts of horrible things that can happen. As soon as I realized that I could move all my limbs and that it wasn't a big gaping hole, I just awaited for the ambulance.

Q: Were you wearing a bullet-proof vest?

WEDEMAN: I was wearing a bullet-proof vest ... and a helmet. It went right through the vest.

Q: Did the vest save your life?

WEDEMAN: I think there's a very good chance it did. With these vests, there are two ceramic plates, one on the front and one on the back. It hit below the ceramic plate on the back. So, it clearly made a difference. Had it hit the ceramic plate, the vest may have stopped it altogether. But, yes, had I not been wearing the vest, it probably would have been much more severe.

Q: Have you ever been shot before as a journalist?

WEDEMAN: I've been shot at before, but never shot.

Q: How does getting shot affect you as a journalist, and is any story worth being shot over?

WEDEMAN: As a journalist, I don't go into these things lightly. I know there's a risk and I've been in these situations before. What you do is, take the precautions you can. You're not reckless.

If you're not a journalist, you would think to go anywhere near these places you've got to be not only reckless, but crazy.

Somebody has got to report on this. Usually, when you arrive at a clash or any sort of situation where there is a potential for violence, you case it out. You look around. You look where everybody is, where the action is taking place and you try to find a calm spot with some protection. That way, if things do get out of control, you know that you have some protection.

You don't just walk out impervious to the dangers of getting shot. You try to get in a position where you balance the risk against what you are doing.

I don't regret what I did. I was doing my job. Will I be more careful the next time? I'm always careful. In this case, I think I just did what my gut was telling me, what my experience was telling me.

But it was unpredictable. Something strange happened there today in terms of the amount of gunfire.

Editor's Note: The Israeli Defense Force said its troops responded with tank rounds and automatic weapons fire when its outpost was fired on. The IDF said the attackers used anti-tank weapons for the first time.The CNN crew, which arrived at the scene, said the preponderance of fire came from the Israeli side as Palestinian militiamen and security forces took cover.

Israeli-Palestinian clashes continue in Gaza, West Bank
October 31, 2000
Gunfire in Gaza injures CNN's Ben Wedeman
October 31, 2000

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Addameer: Palestinian Human Rights Association
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Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees
U.S. State Department

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