On Saturday, Palestinians buried the 29th person killed by Israeli border forces in about a week. Journalist Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was wearing a blue flak jacket marked with “PRESS” in capital letters when he was shot, Reuters reports.
The “Great March of Return” protests, which started on March 30, aim to draw attention to what Palestinians say is their right of return to territories taken from them decades ago when Israel was formed.
But things turned bloody almost immediately last week, when Israeli sharpshooters took aim at anyone approaching the border fence.
Israel maintains that many of those killed and wounded are members of Hamas, an armed, political group designated as a terrorist organization by the West. Hamas denies this claim.
Photographer Ashraf Abu Amra told Reuters he was next to Murtaja when he was shot:
“We were filming as youths torched tires. We were about 250 meters from the fence. Israeli forces opened fire and injuries began. Yaser and I ran to film when suddenly Yaser fell to the ground. I screamed to him ‘Yaser are you alright?’. He didn’t respond and there was blood on the ground underneath him. I knew it was a bad injury and people carried him away.”
Murtaja, 30, died in hospital.
Murtaja’s company confirmed his death, with witnesses saying he was close to the front of the protests in Southern Gaza when he was hit. CREDIT: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Getty Images.
While the Israeli military said it would look into Murtaja’s shooting, Israeli forces have a long history of targeting Palestinian journalists in airstrikes, raids and now, sniper fire, with impunity.
The Israeli Defense Forces maintain they were not targeting Murtaja, but reports on Israeli radio claimed that he was operating a drone camera at the time of his shooting. Abu Amra and other witnesses say Murtaja was not operating a drone.
Murtaja was one of at least four journalists shot on Friday — three others were wounded at other locations. The protests have not resulted in any Israeli casualties.