Associated Press (AP) video journalist, Simone Camilli, and with Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash were killed Wednesday along with three members of Gaza’s bomb disposal squad when an unexploded rocket blew up. Camilli, along with photojournalist Hatem Moussa were documenting the disarming of the ordnance that was believed to have come from an Israeli airstrike, when it detonated in Beit Lahiya, a town in northern Gaza. Moussa survived the blast with serious injuries.
The devastating blast happened after the bombs had stopped falling on the Gaza Strip during the third day of a temporary cease-fire. The two AP journalists met up with Abu Afash on Wednesday and joined up with the Gaza Police Bomb Disposal Squad as they moved through the city disarming and removing unexploded bombs. Reports indicate that Camilli, Abu Afash and Moussa were not in a position to impede the three police unexploded-ordinance members as they attempted to work on the device.
According to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, he Hamas-run police squad had collected more than 1,000 unexploded bombs, rockets and missiles that had come from Israeli air strikes and other deadly weapons since the battle between Gaza and Israel started on July 8. Many of the unexploded weapons had been collected during the three-day cease-fire that started Monday, giving the police a break from the turbulent happenings in the region.
English-language Middle Eastern newspaper, The National, published an article about the unexploded-ordnance squad last week. The article indicated that the squad consisted of 70 members who would scour the city looking for the unexploded weapons. When disarming and collecting the ordinance, the members of the squad were prone to not use any sort of protective gear. While a majority of the collected ordinance was normally Israeli, some were Hamas rockets that failed to escape the Gaza Strip on the way toward Israeli targets.
Camilli was originally from Italy, but the 35-year-old video journalist was currently based out of Beirut, Lebanon. In 2005, Camilli began his career with The AP as an intern. Now, he becomes the first international journalist killed in the conflict. 36-year-old interpreter, Abu Afash, was a regular alongside foreign correspondents in the region and worked with local journalists, helping to train them through the Doha Center for Media Freedom.
Camilli leaves behind his partner, Ylva van den Berg, and Nour, the pair’s daughter. Over his career, Camilli covered conflicts throughout the Middle East. In 2012 the AP video journalist was in Gaza covering the last operation by the Israeli military. During that time, Camilli captured video of a bomb exploding on Saraya which was used widely throughout the world by a number of news outlets.
Abu Afash began working with journalists as a translator a few years ago after leaving his job as a computer engineer for a Gaza based health union. Abu Afash typically worked with Agence France-Presse and was a strong supporter of young Palestinians attempting to become freelance journalists.
It is anticipated that Camilli will be taken to a small town in the Tuscany region of Italy, where the journalist’s father is the mayor, to be buried. While Camilli is not the first journalist killed in a war or armed conflict, he was in Gaza doing what he loved and knew the dangers of his job. Camilli had returned to Gaza last week instead of heading to Erbil, Iraq. A deep attachment to Gaza its people drew the journalist to the region and assignment that ended up being his last.
By Carl Auer