The War From the Gaza Side
February 2009

by Ahmad Khateib

© Ahmad Khateib/WpN
Palestinian women mourn at a funeral in Gaza Strip on Jan. 5, 2009. This was the 10th day of air strikes by Israel into Gaza.
In Gaza, I wake up early and go out to see what the situation is. I don't have preconceived ideas about what kind of stories I will cover or whom I might encounter but, in any case, I suit up with a bulletproof vest. I keep my eye on any aircraft around and look for safe places I can duck into if I need to. The war in Gaza is very different this time: it is really scary and death is everywhere. You cannot move around much but what prompts me to risk my life to do my job is a sense of duty towards the people. My aim is to send off photos of the children and the elderly – the destruction of their homes and sometimes their deaths. We [Palestinians] as a people have experienced everything and have seen everything you can see in a war; I hope it will be the last for my people. It has been very painful to witness. Everything is frightening in this crazy war: even journalists are targeted.

I am married to a Jordanian woman and I have four children. My children, like the rest of the kids in Gaza, do not know what it's like to sleep through a quiet night. The sounds of Israeli aircraft and of bombs hitting their targets nearby are deafening. I think about this throughout the night while my wife and children hug themselves tightly in fear of death. Every morning I go out to see the devastation and loss of life. I am doing my job but my family doesn't know if I'll come back to them and, for my part, I am afraid I might come home to find them dead. I also worry about waking up in a hospital room and no one knowing where I am. Everything is scary in this war. I am not lying about the Israeli army when I say that they know where journalists live and work and they hit the housing and offices of the international news agencies and Arabic ones. This is a very dangerous situation.

© Ahmad Khateib/WpN
A Palestinian woman mourns at a funeral in Gaza Strip on Jan. 5, 2009. This was the 10th day of air strikes by Israel into Gaza.
I think death is a subject close to all the people living in the Gaza Strip. I was around for the first Intifada 18 years ago but until now I haven't been afraid when conflict breaks out. But this time the skies are filled with Israeli planes. Killings and ruin on every street. There is no safe place to be in Gaza.

I cover stories about the Palestinian resistance groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance. I work in coordination with them in order to portray their military training during the truce with Israel. But in wartime, we only see the Palestinian military when there is fighting in the streets.

I take on any story, large or small. It is important to get to the scene of the story as soon as possible and I am helped by my large number of contacts in many different parts of the Gaza Strip. These kinds of relations are very, very important for photographers. My relationship with the Red Cross and ambulances is crucial to get to the place where thick smoke rises above a tall building following a bombing.

© Ahmad Khateib/WpN
A Palestinian boy in the rubble of a house after an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 7, 2009.
An Israeli air strike hit the Gaza border with Egypt in the town of Rafah, continuing to destroy the weapon-smuggling tunnels there. This war is similar to the 1967 war that some of the older people remember – Palestinians have become refugees once again. People need to have a roof over their heads, water and electricity. One thing I see in the eyes of the inhabitants here, especially the young, is anger against oppression and repression. The anger of the Palestinian youth is dangerous for Israel, and most seriously, damages the children. They need to live in peace and safety.

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© Ahmad Khateib

Ahmad Khateib graduated from Damascus University in press and media. He began in 1990 working with journalist Tahir Shreteh in the Rafah refugee camp. After that he worked as a cameraman for the British agency (Visnews) TV in 1991 (which was bought by Reuters in 1993). When Khateib left Reuters he worked in television in the Middle East. In 1998 he was employed as a cameraman with WTN TV (Worldwide Television News). In 2000 he went back to Reuters as a television cameraman, covering the events of the second Intifada until 2003. He photographed for Getty Images starting in 2003 and then World Picture Network and Newscom in 2004. WpN now represents him. During his coverage of events in the first, second and third Intifadas, and now, in what could be called the fourth war, he has faced death more than once and has been imprisoned but still believes that the camera is his career and he cannot stay away from it.

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