Palestinian photographer Yasser Murtaja’s final images eerily prescient as he documented the rising violence in Gaza before he was shot dead.
“Yasser Murtaja was a civilian and a journalist who was wearing clear press identification while he was filming the demonstrations at the Gaza fence with Israel. He was there because he wanted to document civilians exercising their right to peacefully protest.”
— Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council secretary-general
The drone floats above the farmland at the east of Gaza’s narrow coastal strip where beyond the fence — the transition is almost invisible — Israel’s border communities begin.
The video is among the last footage filmed by Palestinian photographer Yasser Murtaja in Gaza before he was shot dead by Israeli troops last Friday — and it eerily foreshadows his own fate.
Palestinian demonstrators walk through the flat fields, hold signs or sit in the shade of tents in the five border protest camps that dot the landscape from east of Jabaliya in the north to Khuza’a, a short drive from the southern city of Khan Yunis.
Murtaja died on the second of a series of mass Friday protests called the “Great March of Return,” which will culminate on “Nakba” Day (catastrophe in Arabic) on 15 May, which will commemorate the events of 1948 when, following the creation of the state of Israel, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
Despite wearing body armour clearly marked with a press sign, Murtaja was shot in the stomach while covering the protests and died later of his wounds. He was one of nine Palestinian men killed in a space of a few hours.
Murtaja’s video footage — provided to the Guardian by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) — shows an injured man being rushed away on a stretcher. Burning tires billow black smoke close to the fence. A zoomed shot shows a grainy image of Israeli soldiers, one raising his rifle.
Commenting on the killing of Murtaja, Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman the journalist, a father of one, was responsible for his own death — despite the fact that Israel was warned that its shooting of civilians could amount to a war crime by the International Criminal Court.