Palestinian Journalist Killed In Gaza Protest
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And now we turn to Gaza, which is experiencing its deadliest violence in years. Palestinian officials say Israeli troops have killed at least 29 Palestinians in the last week of protests near the border fence with Israel. Among those killed yesterday was a young Palestinian journalist at the scene. NPR's Daniel Estrin was also covering the unrest and sent us this report.
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DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Palestinian photojournalist Yaser Murtaja covered plenty of funeral processions during the 2014 war in Gaza. Now his colleagues were reporting on his death. They encircled his body, holding their cameras high, marching down the street to mourners music. Murtaja was covering the protests at the Gaza border Friday. He stood about 300 yards away from the Israeli border fence filming Palestinians burning tires said photographer Rushdi Serraj, who was next to him.
RUSHDI SERRAJ: Suddenly, he shout, I'm injured. I'm injured. My stomach.
ESTRIN: Photos show Murtaja on the ground in a standard journalist's protective vest marked press. His family said he was shot on the side of his body. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says half a dozen local reporters covering the protests were wounded by Israeli fire. The Foreign Press Association in Israel and the Palestinian territories called on the army to conduct a fast and open investigation and to show restraint where journalists work.
The Israeli military insists it does not intentionally target journalists and is looking into the matter. A military spokesman said soldiers were responding to a violent riot on the border and were instructed to use lethal fire only at those posing a threat. Murtaja's colleagues say he did work for the BBC, Vice and other international media, and helped film Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's video installation recently exhibited at Israel's leading museum. It was a video of Gaza's only tiger, which an animal welfare group later evacuated from Gaza.
KHALED AL ASHKAR: (Foreign language spoken).
ESTRIN: At a mourners tent, videographer Khaled Al Ashkar said Murtaja once joked that he wished the animal welfare group would take him out of Gaza, too. Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza for the last decade. Ever since the militant group Hamas took control, travel out of Gaza is severely restricted. Murtaja recently posted a photo on Facebook. It was a bird's-eye view of Gaza's Mediterranean shore photographed with his drone. He wrote, I hope one day I can take such a photo while I'm in the sky - meaning in an airplane. He signed off, my name is Yaser Murtaja. I am 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I have never traveled abroad. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Gaza City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.