Gaza journalists targeted by Israel for covering the truth

Gaza journalists targeted by Israel for covering the truth
In-depth: The killing of Yasser Murtaja, along with the shooting of numerous other journalists, shows Israeli contempt for accurate coverage of the atrocities in Gaza, writes Isra Namey.
5 min read
13 April, 2018
Palestinian journalists hold posters of slain reporter Yasser Murtaja outside Gaza's al-Shifa hospital [Getty]
Last Friday's protest as part of the Great Return March, organised near the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, proved to be particularly bloody and deadly for local Palestinian journalists - who still managed to fulfill their mission of reporting their people's peaceful demonstrations.

One Palestinian journalist was killed and another six were injured while covering the second Friday of the daily protests. Despite wearing special clothes clearly marked with the word PRESS, identifying them as journalists and camera operators, the Palestinian journalists were deliberately targeted by Israeli snipers.

Among the protesters, the Palestinian journalists spread to capture the scene when the tear gas was launched and live fire shot by the Israeli military into the Palestinian crowd, killing and wounding several.

Gaza devoted cameraman   

Yasser Murtaja succumbed to his injuries after an Israeli bullet penetrated his abdomen and caused severe internal bleeding. Dr Mazen Safi, who dealt with Murtaja's case when he arrived at Naser Hospital in Khan Younis, said that Murtaja's injury was critical and direct.

Read more: Will 2018 bring a third intifada in Gaza?

"Yasser reached us suffering from a deadly injury as the bullet penetrated his arteries, so he underwent an urgent surgery - but suffered further excessive internal bleeding during it," Saif said.

Widely known for his contagious smile and friendly, helpful personality, Murtaja left behind a great legacy of a Palestinian journalist who risked life and limb to capture the story of his people, and document their struggle towards freedom.

One from the most fascinating documentaries filmed by Murtaja was Bisan, telling the unforgettable story of a little girl who lost her family during the Israeli bombardment of Shujayea during the aggression launched against Gaza in 2014.

Murtaja told the world of the traumatised Palestinian girl's bitter experience, bringing attention to the plight of Palestinian children who lose their parents and other family members as a result of Israeli military raids.

Through his work, Murtaja shared the lives of the people of Gaza, who live under complex living conditions. And as one of them, he personally suffered from the suffocating restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of people of Gaza.

In one of his final posts on Facebook, Murtaja lamented having never been able to cross Gaza's borders and travel the globe.

"I am waiting impatiently for the day when I take a photo for Gaza when I am flying in the sky instead of being on the ground. My name is Yasser, 30, and never have been outside Gaza in my entire life."

Read more: Explainer: Life in Gaza under Israel's blockade

Israeli troops killed Murtaja before his simple dream could come true. Employed by Eye Media, the slain reporter was doing his job, reporting the unfolding scenes and covering the demonstrations of the people of Gaza.

'Premeditated Crimes'

Besides Murtaja, six other journalists were injured by Israeli troops while covering the protests. 

Adham El-Hajar and Izz Abu Shanab were both shot in the legs. The two journalists were clearly identified as press, wearing body armour over their torsos, helmets on their heads, and their cameras carried in their hands. They were still targeted.

Clockwise from left: Injured Palestinian journalists Khalil Abu Athra, Adel Hawajiri, and Adham El-Hajar

Saber Noor El-Deen, Ibraheem Zanoun, and Khalil Abu Athra, were also injured while covering that day's protest.

"It was clear that we are members of the press, there is no way we could have been mistaken. However, we found ourselves within the barrage of the Israeli live bullets," Noor El-Deen said.

Regardless of the lethal force used against the Palestinian journalists, they will never retreat to tell the story of their people and document the truth

Exposing their lives to real danger, and not afforded the necessary international protection, Palestinian journalists continue to tell the story of their people for the sake of telling the truth.

Read more: Gaza: Trump grants Israel a licence to kill

[Click to enlarge]

Other journalists were wounded after inhaling tear gas released by the Israeli troops into the Palestinian crowds.

Calls for accountability

The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate expressed their outrage at what they described as "willful Israeli crimes against Palestinian journalists", and "a blatant violation of international law".

In a statement, the union said it would take all measuresit could to pursue the journalist's killer, calling on the United Nations to implement Security Council Resolution 2222 which provides for the protection of journalists in conflict areas.

The syndicate hailed the incredible commitment of the Palestinian journalists who devoted their lives to their people's just cause, saluting Murtaja and his courageous comrades.

In pictures: Palestinians protest along Gaza border in Great Return March

Dozens of Palestinian journalists held a protest near the eastern borders in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, to voice their anger over the deliberate targeting of their colleagues.

The journalists appeared handcuffed and taped up their mouths to show how the Israeli occupation targets and shoots journalists in order to suppress the truth.

"Our message today is to let the whole world know that, regardless of the lethal force used against the Palestinian journalists, they will never retreat to tell the story of their people and document the truth no matter how heavy the price will be," said Imad El-Franji, the head of Palestinian journalists' Muntada.

He called upon international humanitarian organisations to intervene and conduct investigations into the Israeli "crimes" perpetrated against Palestinian journalists, stressing that the occupying Israeli authorities must be held accountable.

Isra Namey is a freelance writer based in Gaza. Her writings have appeared in the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Al Jazeera, and Middle East Eye.

Follow her on Twitter @IsraNamey