6 April 2023
“I hope the day would come to take this image when I am in the sky instead of on the ground! My name is Yaser, I am 30 years old, live in Gaza City and I have never travelled before in my life!”
Gaza journalist Yasser Murtaja (31), wrote this caption under an aerial shot of Gaza City’s port captured by his drone, on 24 March 2018. Two weeks later, on 6 April 2018, Yasser was shot by Israeli forces while covering the peaceful demonstrations of the Great March of Return in eastern Gaza, despite him wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet that were both unambiguously marked with the word “PRESS”. On the next day, he was pronounced dead of his injuries.
Yasser, who worked for the Gaza-based production company Ain Media, dedicated his life to capturing the daily life of Palestinians living in Gaza under the prolonged Israeli colonial closure. Like many Gazans of his age, Murtaja was dreaming of travelling beyond the sealed enclave.
Yasser was the first journalist killed by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return, but not the only one. According to Al Mezan’s documentation, Israeli forces carried out 249 attacks on journalists, killing two—Yasser, and reporter Ahmed Abu Hussein, 24—and injuring 173 others, of whom 43 were injured more than once. This suggests that journalists who cover and expose the crimes committed by the Israeli authorities and forces against the Palestinian people were directly targeted by Israeli fire.
Yasser's killing exemplifies not only the oppressive nature of the Israel's occupation and apartheid, but also the culture of total impunity that Israel and its officials enjoy. Following Yasser's killing, Israel announced that it would investigate the circumstances of the event. Five years later, Israel's alleged investigation has come to nothing, and no charges have been filed. This is certainly not a novelty, but rather a consistent scheme followed by the Israeli authorities, including after the killing of Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May 2022.
Israel's whitewashing of its crimes against the Palestinian people will continue until the international community will hold Israel accountable. Al Mezan stresses that decades of Israeli violence against Palestinians require serious actions in order for perpetuators to be held accountable and reparations to be made available to victims. It is clearly apparent, including through our documentation, that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed during the Great March of Return. Al Mezan will continue to document and report these clearly apparent crimes and demand justice for victims, including for the overarching crimes of persecution and apartheid.
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