Gaza photographer Mohammed Asad tells the story of how he miraculously survived gunfire yesterday, just a few feet away from Mohammed al Jahjuh, 16, who was shot dead in the neck by a bullet fired by Israeli soldiers during the ongoing demonstrations near Israel’s fence.
“Unlike the past 38 protests, everything was almost quiet except for seven to eight stone throwers, and no burning tires. I had just decided to go home with dozens of photos I took. But I felt someone thought it was time for me to leave, and he sent a bullet to my camera. He was an Israeli military sniper.”
“Everything took place in less than a second. When I turned my back to the fence, my camera’s strap jumped forward and a sudden sting scratched my cheek. Then I realized a bullet had penetrated the photographic apparatus. But I was completely confused because [Mohammed] al Jahjuh was bleeding and writhing in pain,” Asad told Mondoweiss.
Asad said he and al Jahjuh were standing 200 meters from the fence. Later, the Gaza health ministry said that two more Palestinians, identified as Abdulaziz Ibrahim Abo Sharia’a, 28, and Maher Atiya, 40, who was differently-abled, succumbed to their wounds, and more than 40 were injured.
“Among the injuries, there were four paramedics and two local photo journalists,” said Ashraf al-Qedra, Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, who accused the Israeli soldiers of using live gunshots aiming to kill and seriously wound demonstrators.
Friday’s rally was held under the slogan, “Honoring heroes of the resistance” and witnessed a turnout of around 8,000 protesters. Since the rallies first began, more than 230 Palestinians have been killed and at least 22,000 others injured by Israeli forces.
Today, Asad will add his $2,800 bullet-punctured Canon 5D III to another four cameras lost under the rubble of his house, which was flattened during the seven-week war on Gaza in 2014.
However, he vowed, “I will not let the 40th protest [at year’s end] miss me. I must manage to get back there with a borrowed camera.
“That was a meaningless message from an idiot soldier, unaware of the Palestinian’s stubborn brain.”
Saying he believed the damage was irreparable, he went on, “This camera has been muted after accompanying me throughout the thirty-eighth week of the Great Return March, but this will not silence my resolve to show Israel’s savage and brutal suppression and a free people’s aim to break the blockade.”
Asad never covers the protest without wearing a helmet and a blue, bullet-protective vest with the word “PRESS” on it in white. But he said that is just “nonsense” for the Israeli military, which targeted and killed two colleagues: Ahmed Abu Hussein and Yaser Murtaja.
Yaser Murtaja, 30, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was shot on April 6 and died the next day. After his death, the Israeli military said it does not intentionally target journalists and that it would look into the circumstances of the shooting. But a week later, Ahmed Abu Hussein, who was working for Gaza’s al-Shaab radio, was shot in the stomach, and died 12 days later.
Facing mounting criticism for its use of live fire, Israel defended its actions by saying that protesters have launched burning kites and balloons tied with explosives at Israel in an attempt to break the border fence and attack civilians.
The protests had begun to quieten down amid reports Hamas, the militant group that runs the enclave, had reined in the violence ahead of an imminent long term truce between the two sides.
Violence flared, however, after a botched Israeli intelligence raid into southern Gaza earlier this month turned into a firefight which left seven Palestinians and one Israeli lieutenant colonel dead.
Gaza’s fighters hit back by launching at least 460 rockets at southern Israel in the heaviest bombardment since the 2014 war.
Israel retaliated by pounding over 160 targets in Gaza with airstrikes.
Egypt brokered a fresh truce to end the cross-border exchange of fire, but it remains unclear if both sides will adhere to a long term solution.