Palestinian Journalist Killed by Israeli Forces at Gaza Border

On Friday, Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja was fatally shot in Gaza where he was covering the confrontation between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). According to The Washington Post, five other journalists were injured.

Before they became the story, Murtaja and his peers were trying to tell the world about the violence taking place at the Gaza border. Reuters reports that 29 people were killed this week alone after Israeli forces were ordered to open fire on thousands of protesters.

Murtaja was a cameraman and co-founder of Palestinian media outlet Ain Medi covering the protests taking place at five sites along the 40-mile-long border. According to BBC, Palestinians were demanding to be “allowed to return to ancestral lands that are now in Israel.” The Independent reports that Murtaja was shot in the stomach while filming protesters setting tyres on fire, resulting in black smoke that limited the IDF’s visibility.

Freelance photojournalist Shadi al-Assar was standing 330 feet from Murtaja when he was shot.

“Some time later I saw some of the young guys carrying him out on a stretcher. I wanted to take a picture of it and then I realized it was Yasser, my friend,” said Assar to The Guardian.

A few days later, hundreds gathered at Murtaja’s funeral, where “his body was covered with a Palestinian flag and his press jacket laid beside him on the stretcher as it was carried through the streets of Gaza City to his home for a last farewell,” according to The Independent. He was 30 years old, and is survived by his wife and two-year-old son.

According to The Washington Post, Murtaja was known for his work with Al Jazeera and on Ai Weiwei’s documentary, “Human Flow,” which not only touched upon the global refugee crisis, but also the particular hardships experienced on the Gaza border.

Murtaja found difficulty leaving the area in an attempt to participate in a training course with Al Jazeera in Qatar. Due to heavy travel restrictions set by Israel in order to maintain security against the terrorist organization Hamas, Murtaja never reached his destination.

The Washington Post also reported that Hamas encouraged Palestinians to attend the protests on the Gaza border. One of the organization’s leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, attended Murtaja’s funeral.

Israeli officials believe Hamas has been using these protests to carry out attacks and that “shooting is a last resort used to protect its border fence, its soldiers, and Israeli communities from ‘violent rioters’ and attacks.”

NPR reports that after The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate found evidence that at least five other journalists were injured this past Friday, the Foreign Press Association in Israel and the Palestinian territories demanded that the IDF conduct “a fast and open investigation” and “show restraint where journalists work.”

The European Union added that the “killings raised serious questions about the use of force” and that Israel’s’ reports of protesters throwing stones and fire-bombs “must also be clarified,” according to Reuters.

Israel has responded to the outpour of critique from these organizations and major political figures such as British Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.

BBC reports that the IDF will hold an investigation into Murtaja’s death, but the statement made by an IDF official raised concerns.

“The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] does not intentionally fire on journalists… The circumstances in which journalists were hit, allegedly by IDF fire, are unknown to us and are being examined.”

According to NPR, a military spokesman said soldiers were instructed to use lethal fire “only at those posing a threat.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that over 1,000 people have been shot over the past week, 400 of which were injured on Friday alone, including a 14-year-old boy who was killed.

Assar fondly described Murtaja to The Guardian. “He was a good guy, always smiling and loved by everybody. He was very ambitious, always looking for a better shot.”

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