PHOTOJOURNALIST: 'There Is No Safe Place In Gaza'

Gaza strip israeli air strikeIbraheem Abu Mustafa/ReutersSmoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip July 8, 2014

New York Times photojournalist Tyler Hicks talked about what’s happening in Gaza right now in an interview with the Times on Wednesday, and he offers interesting, ground-level insight on not only what is going on, but what it’s like to document and photograph the conflict.

The interview came shortly after the Israeli military shelled a Gaza beach area, killing four children. Hicks, a Kenya-based photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014, was on the scene when artillery came in and witnessed their deaths.

“There is no safe place in Gaza right now,” Hicks told his colleague Erika Allen. “Bombs can land at any time, any place. Mostly people are staying inside and the beach is completely abandoned. They were the only ones out there.”

Later in the day, six more Palestinians were killed (including two children) in two air strikes, according to Reuters. Several Gaza districts housing some 100,000 people were urged by Israel to evacuate against the backdrop of a likely ground incursion.

In the interview, Hicks sets the scene for what he’s witnessed so far:

“The situation I’ve been seeing over the past week is almost a carbon copy of what I witnessed when I was here last, in 2012. The cause of the conflict is different, but the effect is very much the same. Hamas is firing rockets into Israel — largely ineffective — and Israel is retaliating with bombs that very often hit civilian homes as they are targeting Hamas militants. Gaza is a densely populated but very small region, and the fighters that Israel is after are intermingled with the general population. Even with the technology that Israel has at its disposal, it’s hard to avoid heavy civilian casualties.”

Israel has stressed it has taken extraordinary precautions in trying to avoid civilian deaths, to include pre-strike phone calls, text messages, and even a “knock on the roof” of target buildings. The IDF has also pointed to Hamas’s urging of Palestinians to be human shields as a reason for the loss of life.

But Hicks’ view on the lack of safety is shared by at least some Palestinians, such as Maher Abu Saa’ed, a doctor in Zeitoun who complained to Reuters that he would not leave his home because he felt nowhere was safe.

“To ask hundreds of people to leave their houses and go to the center of the city is insane, a sick joke,” he said.

Read Hicks’ full interview here >

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