According to local health officials, Yasser Murtaja, 30, was shot in the side of his stomach on Friday by the Israeli military while covering demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border and died later in hospital. The Ain Media journalist was the 29th Palestinian killed in the week-long protests, according to Reuters.
Murtaja was a known figure in the local film and media community. He worked on Participant Media and Amazon Studio-backed Human Flow, which captures the tragedy of the global migration crisis, and he had worked on Basma Alsharif’s 2017 feature Ouroboros, which played at Locarno and London, as well as with the BBC.
Filmmaker Ai Weiwei retweeted a number of posts relating to the incident, including multiple in which artists and mainstream media question why a cameraman journalist wearing a protective vest with the words ‘Press’ on it was shot in an unprotected part of his body.
According to Israeli and Palestinian media, the cameraman was shot in the southern town of Khuzaa, which was engulfed in smoke as demonstrators burned tyres. Photos showed him lying wounded on a stretcher wearing a navy-blue protective vest marked ‘PRESS’ in large capital letters.
A statement to Reuters from the Israeli military read: “The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) does not intentionally target journalists. The circumstances in which journalists were allegedly hit by IDF fire are not familiar to the IDF and are being looked into.” Israeli forces shot dead a British TV cameraman in the Gaza Strip in February.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary-General Christophe Deloire condemned what the group described as Israel’s disproportionate response and called for an independent investigation into the incident. The Foreign Press Association echoed the call.
Murtaja was among at least nine people killed by Israeli gunfire on the second Friday of the so-called March to Return demonstrations. Gaza’s ruling militant Islamist group Hamas orchestrated the demonstrations to coincide with Israel’s 70th Independence Day, which Palestinians view as a catastrophe and cite as a time when 700,000 Arabs were displaced.