Photo of Gazan funeral procession is top winner of international contest

12 Gaza
2013 World Press Photo of the Year, Gaza November 20 2012 (photo: Paul Hansen)

Judges for the 2013 World Press Photo Contest have awarded the Photo of the Year to Swedish photojournalist Paul Hansen for his photograph of a Gazan funeral procession taken during Operation Pillar of Cloud last November. The award is considered one of the most prestigious photojournalism honors in the world.

The procession was for Fouad Hijazi and his two children Sohaib, 2, and Muhamad, 4, killed by an Israeli airstrike November 19, 2012.

As the Palestine Center’s Yousef Munayyer notes, the backstory to this photo is chronicled in the latest Human Rights Watch report on alleged Israeli war crimes committed during the latest assault on Gaza. The human rights group notes that “field investigations of these attacks”–including the bombing of the Hijazi home– “found no evidence of Palestinian fighters, weaponry, or other apparent military objectives at the time of the attack. Individuals who deliberately order or take part in attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects are responsible for war crimes.” Here’s more from Human Rights Watch on the incident:

On November 19 at around 7:30 p.m., a single munition struck the house of the Hijazi family in Block 8 of the Jabalya refugee camp. The small, two-story cinderblock house was mostly demolished while 10 family members were inside. The strike killed Fouad Hijazi, a 46-year-old janitor at the Hamad secondary school, along with two of his children, Mohamed, 4, and Sohaib, 2. His wife, Amna, was wounded, as were three of their sons and a daughter.

One of the survivors, Nur Hijazi, 18, said that she was at home with her parents, four brothers and one sister when the attack took place:

Mohamed and Sohaib were with my father in another room. The rest of the family was in another room watching TV. At 7:30 I saw that the whole place turn red and suddenly the whole house collapsed on our heads. I found myself at my neighbor’s house and one of my neighbors took me to an ambulance. I was hospitalized for four days at Kamal Adwan Hospital. I have two broken bones in my spine. I don’t need surgery but I’m in a lot of pain. [Doctors said that] I must lie in bed for one month.

Human Rights Watch also saw three of Nur’s wounded brothers. Ashraf, 17, had cuts on his chest, upper arm and above the right eye. Osama, 13, had a bandage on his head that he said covered cuts. Musab, 2, had a cut on his head.

A video apparently of the Hijazi house after the strike shows workers removing the bodies of Fouad, Mohamed, and Sohaib.

The Hijazi house, inspected by Human Rights Watch on November 28, lay in ruins. The surrounding buildings in the densely packed area were only lightly damaged, except that there was slightly more substantial damage to one side of one adjacent house. The damage suggests that an Israeli aircraft dropped a bomb at the site. Human Rights Watch found no munition remnants at the site.

A neighbor who lives across a very narrow street – too small for a car – from the Hijazi home said he heard no shooting of rockets from the area at the time or at other times during the 8-day conflict. There were no other explosions in the area that night, he said. He and other local residents said they did not know or understand why the Hijazi family home had been hit, saying that the family had no connection to any of Gaza’s armed groups. One of Fouad’s other sons had been killed by an Israeli strike about five years earlier, one neighbor said, but he was a civilian who was killed accidentally.

The IDF did not make any announcements about specific strikes in Jabalya at the time. The Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center stated that the three victims were “non-involved” civilians.


This year’s Photo of the Year, taken by Paul Hansen, is a striking image of the bodies of two young children carried through the streets of Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike on their home, the photographer said. They are being taken to a mosque for burial, their father’s body carried on a stretcher behind them. Their mother was hospitalized.

The photograph humanizes what some may see as a politically charged situation.

But contest jury chair Santiago Lyon told CNN that there was no talk of it being controversial. Lyon is the vice president and director of photography for The Associated Press.

This year’s final round of judges were a global mix, Lyon said.

There were three things jurors were looking for in a winning image — a photograph that reached the intellect, heart and stomach, he said. The Gaza City photo accomplished that, Lyon said.

Al Akhbar:

“The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children,” said jury member Mayu Mohanna of Peru. “It’s a picture I will not forget.”


“This prize is the highest honor you can get in the profession,” Hansen told The Associated Press. “I’m very happy, but also very sad. The family lost two children and the mother is unconscious in a hospital.”


Hansen’s November 20 shot won top prize in both the spot news single photograph category and the overall competition…..The contest drew entries from professional press photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers across the world. In all, 103,481 images were submitted by 5,666 photographers from 124 countries.

Hansen will receive a €10,000 prize at ceremonies and the opening of the year’s exhibition April 25-27th in Amsterdam.

This is World Press Photo’s 56th Annual Photo Contest.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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19 Responses

  1. LanceThruster
    February 15, 2013, 6:49 pm

    The LA Jewish Journal commented on the photo being awarded a prize, but without showing it. I asked about that in the comments (which did not go up). I added this link for the photo just now. Doubt it will get posted either. When they banned me, they blocked every single IP I used to submit comments from. I’m at a new workstation now.

    Wanna bet that this IP gets blocked at some point as well?

    If you need to hide opposing views of any stripe, how strong is the actual position you’re defending?

    • kalithea
      February 16, 2013, 1:42 pm

      Don’t worry. Those who attempt to suppress the truth will end up humbled and even destroyed by it at some point.

      • LanceThruster
        February 17, 2013, 5:32 pm

        I also commented on their Elie Wiesel piece –

        The comment they have not posted is simply this —

        “Have I performed my duty as a survivor?”

        Not if you remain silent on the continued brutalization of the Palestinians by the Israelis in their ongoing theft. (approx. as I post in good faith that comments meeting the guidelines will go up and I do not save many of them).


  2. sardelapasti
    February 15, 2013, 7:34 pm

    “…in the latest Human Rights Watch report on alleged Israeli war crimes committed during the latest assault on Gaza”
    Allege away. How about alleged Nazi war crimes, now?

  3. jimmy
    February 15, 2013, 7:38 pm

    so I wonder how the lobby and its buddy israel will spin this photo into an anti-isreal…something or other

    • kalithea
      February 16, 2013, 1:50 pm

      How about: Anti-Semitism is on the rise; the world hates us, boo-hoo baa-waa, poor us the eternal victims (sob!), we are above the law for these reasons; therefore these so-called war crimes are totally justified!…?

  4. Inanna
    February 15, 2013, 8:30 pm

    It’s an incredible shot. It makes you feel like you are present there in the immediacy of the emotion and yet has an ethereal, almost transcendent atmosphere that unites us with them in their grief.

  5. gamal
    February 15, 2013, 8:44 pm

    What an opportunity for Judi to disabuse the naive, she must be eager to place this picture in the right context.

    • kalithea
      February 16, 2013, 1:52 pm

      I’m sure the pen is being dipped in poison at this very moment.

  6. eljay
    February 15, 2013, 10:41 pm

    A good photo, but not a great one (IMHO). The second photo – the one of a Syrian man being tortured – is disturbing as hell…

    • Citizen
      February 16, 2013, 3:46 am

      @ eljay

      I disagree; there’s a natural symmetry and stark juxtiposition in the winner that is lacking in the second prize. BTW, the third prize subject is brutal treatment of collaborators by some Palestinians. 4th is a bombing of Gaza. Syria is next most in play subject among top photos in appropriate category (criteria: heart,mind, stomach). Second prize is torture by Syrian rebels–the guys we are funding.

      • kalithea
        February 16, 2013, 1:54 pm

        “Second prize is torture by Syrian rebels–the guys we are funding.”

        Yes, and dont you know it would be spun into the reverse; or the dumb masses will perceive it as the reverse, as a poor-poor rebel who’s so innocent being tortured…viewed from their twisted prism of self-righteousness, because Americans never torture (snark) they just kill dozens and hundreds of civilians to get ONE target. ……..blech!

  7. Hostage
    February 15, 2013, 11:37 pm

    The photograph humanizes what some may see as a politically charged situation.

    I wish that were true. When people saw the picture of the Oklahoma City firefighter carrying a dying baby it galvanized public support for a manhunt to track down those responsible and bring them to justice. In this case there’s a morbid fascination, but no sense of public outrage.

    Pictures of the slaughtered innocents in Gaza have simply ceased to stir the public into action. I remember Congressman Baird showing a photo of a Palestinian father crying over the bodies of his dead little girls and the Congressman saying “These children deserve to have someone ask why they died!” But our lawmakers condemned the Goldstone report for recommending that the responsible Israeli officials should be brought to justice. So this family wasn’t spared, and sadly, neither will those who die in the next Israeli air strike on a home in Gaza.

    The people who defend Israel’s right to commit these crimes are given federally-subsidized pulpits to incite more violence and to humiliate and degrade their victims, while those who call for equality and a non-violent solution are labeled anti-Semites and terrorists.

    • jimmy
      February 16, 2013, 9:43 am

      and …how… not why …but how… do ya think this is all happening hostage….

      there is no Israeli Lobby….ya know

  8. kalithea
    February 16, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Caption: “The misery that Zionism has wrought.”


  9. iResistDe4iAm
    February 16, 2013, 10:21 pm

    The world is beset by many natural disasters, but Palestine is the world’s longest 65-year Israeli-made UNNATURAL disaster.

  10. jimmy
    February 16, 2013, 11:19 pm

    i would guess that …not one member of the US congress will see this…

    they all have their Israeli blinders on 24/7

  11. iResistDe4iAm
    February 17, 2013, 10:12 am

    I wonder if these traumatized and grieving Palestinians (and many others like them) “seem a bit ho-hum” to Jodi Rudoren?

    “it seems like Israelis are almost more traumatized.”
    “The Gazans … have such limited lives than in many ways they have less to lose.”
    “And I’ve been surprised that when I talk to people who just lost a relative, or who are gathering belongings from a bombed-out house, they seem a bit ho-hum.”

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