Ruba Mahmoud Awayes, 21, was on her way home from college when she was hit in the face. Her eye was so badly damaged doctors later removed it. A friend who was with her was also hit and wounded in the hand.

Awayes' family, who lives in Nus Jbeil, outside Nablus, is angry that the media has not picked up on the incident and turned to Al Jazeera.net to tell their story.

Palestinians are routinely injured and some killed by rubber bullets fired by the Israeli occupation army.

Awayes says: "My friend and I were leaving campus on 9 April, and walking toward the taxi cabs that would take us to the village.

"Suddenly, I felt a strong object smacking my right eye. I felt my entire head exploding.

"I didn’t know what was happening to me. I collapsed and found myself in the Rafidia hospital."

Awayes, a student of information technology, said she saw no Israeli military activities or disturbances in the vicinity, but thinks the type of bullet points the finger at the occupation army.

"There were no soldiers, no military vehicles, nothing, no helicopters hovering above. It was as if the bullet came from nowhere. If I had known there was shooting, I would have ducked it or moved to a safer place or returned to campus."

The Israeli army regularly uses rubber bullets against Palestinian demonstrators. In August 2005, it switched to using sand-compressed rubber bullets from rubber-coated steel bullets which have been known to cause many Palestinian deaths.

B'tselem, the Israeli human rights group, says at least 60 Palestinians were killed by rubber bullets in the first Palestinian uprising between 1987 and 1992. Fifteen were killed between 2000 and 2005.

Medical toll

Humam Rishmawi, the ophthalmologist who treated Awayes' eye, said: "Everything was smashed by the impact of the bullet - the cornea, the retina, the internal blood vessels, the entire eyeball was smashed.
 

Israeli police shoot rubber bullets
at Palestinian protesters

"We had no choice but to eviscerate her entire eye, which we did. We also placed a polystyrene ball in place of the eyeball."

Awayes will have another operation in a few months to put in an artificial eye.
 
Rishmawi says the number of patients coming in with eye injuries has declined.

"But in the heydays of the intifada, we received at least two or three people per week."

When Awayes was transferred from Rafidia to Saint John's eye hospital in East Jerusalem for the surgery she had to travel without her father as he was prevented from entering the Israeli-occupied city.
 
No apology
 
Her father, Mahmoud Awayes, has also been unsuccessful in getting an explanation from the Israeli military.

He says they have offered neither an acknowledgment nor an apology for the shooting.

Al Jazeera.net contacted the office of the Israeli Defence Force spokesperson in Tel Aviv and was told no comment had been issued concerning the woman's injuries.

"Do they think that we are lesser human beings, insignificant, expendable?"

Mahmoud Awayes,
victim's father

Mahmoud Awayes says: "Imagine if a 21-year-old Jewish student had her eye smashed how her story would be carried by all American media and European media to underscore Arab brutality.

"You see the hypocrisy and double-standards. Do they think that we are lesser human beings, insignificant, expendable? Is this the civilisation they are bragging about?"

He said he would try to seek justice, "not so much because I want to get compensation from the Israelis, but in order to show them that we are not children of a lesser God".
 
Future
 
Meanwhile his daughter is preparing to return to college.

"I am, of course, angry, to say the least, but I won't allow this to cripple my life. I will return to college in a few weeks. Life must go on and I will not sit down at home lamenting my bad luck.

"I will not look for mercy from anybody. I will keep going as if nothing had happened to me."