Gaza 'a place of death'

Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against US embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba. Photo: Reuters
Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire and tear gas during a protest against US embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba. Photo: Reuters

When Reuters photographer Ibraheem Abu Mustafa set off to cover the protests in Gaza on Monday (local time) morning he came across a wheelchair-bound acquaintance.

“Today, this morning, I said 'Hi' to a man," he recalls. "By the end of the day I was at his funeral.”

Such is the collision of life and work for Abu Mustafa, who has spent nearly half his 35 years as a professional photographer covering a small place like the Gaza Strip. His home. And his subject.

Monday was to be the single deadliest day in Gaza for years, after Israeli gunfire killed more than 50 Palestinians on the penultimate day of a six-week border protest by Gazans demanding the right to return to ancestral homes that now lie on the other side of the Gaza-Israel frontier fence.

"I feel upset over what is happening. At the same time I continue to do my job," said Abu Mustafa.

A female Palestinian demonstrator walks during a at the Israel-Gaza border. Photo: Reuters
A female Palestinian demonstrator walks during a at the Israel-Gaza border. Photo: Reuters

"So I have to separate my job and my feelings. I cover an event, then I cover a similar event the next day, so I have developed a frame of mind that allows me to cope with the events that are happening, and the circumstances."

The sometimes repetitive nature of the news cycle in Gaza works to his favour. After years of careful observation he has a sense for what will happen, and where it will happen, and where to stand so that he can capture dangerous events, without being caught up in them.

“The moment the tear gas hits, you know there will be a reaction from the protesters," he said.

Relative of Palestinian Ahmed al-Rantisi, who was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, is consoled at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Salem
Relative of Palestinian Ahmed al-Rantisi, who was killed during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border, is consoled at a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

"Instead of them turning their back to me, they start facing me, and the gas coming out has a certain shape, white, and combined with the smoke coming from the tyres it will be a mix of white and black, and that is what makes a picture strong.

“I call this place a place of death, there is death here, it is not a place of comfort, any second someone could die."

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