Portraits from Gaza

Dr. Nasser al-Tatar, the director general of al-Shifa hospital, had been working twenty hours a day since the offensive started on 7 July when I photographed him on 14 July. The previous week, when he took an hour off to go home and break the Ramadan fast with his family, a neighbor came running with a warning that the doctor’s home could be bombed at any moment. “I prayed, ran out with my family to the street and watched my house be destroyed, then I came back to work,” he said, standing on the ruins of what used to be his home and private clinic.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

It was not the first large-scale Israeli military assault on Gaza that I have documented for the photography collective ActiveStills.

But this summer’s was the worst.

From Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah in the south, devastation and death were on every corner. Entire families were wiped out, such as the Abu Jami family in Khan Younis, with 26 members killed, among them 18 children. There was not enough space to bury all the victims in the family tomb.

Entire areas of Gaza were leveled to the ground. Nearly one out of three of the approximately 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza were forced out of their homes during the onslaught. The scale of destruction and killing far surpassed what I saw in November 2012.

I took so many photos of dead and injured people that I could not gather all of their names or stories. They became anonymous bloody faces, robbed of their humanity and their lives reduced to casualty statistics.

This series attempts to tell some of the individual stories of Palestinians in Gaza and aims to highlight the extraordinary solidarity and unsung heroism which was shown in so many ways during the 51 days of bombing and terror.

Anne Paq is a French freelance photographer and member of the photography collective ActiveStills.

Nasreen in the room in which she was staying with her unemployed husband and six children in the Fallujah government-run school in Jabaliya refugee camp on 29 July after fleeing bombing in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. “Bombs still explode around us. A house next to ours was bombed and we don’t know if our house is still standing,” she said. Desperate for shelter, hundreds of Palestinians broke into the Fallujah government-run school in Jabaliya refugee camp. Approximately 3,000 took shelter in the school, which lacked basic facilities and provided neither food nor water.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Hamda Abdun, four years old, lies in a bed in al-Shifa hospital on 14 July after he was injured in an Israeli airstrike targeting the home of their neighbours in the Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City. Three other members of his family were injured and their home was destroyed. Anne Paq ActiveStills

Majeed al-Zeem, 52 years old, stands next to a hole made by a drone-launched missile which caused his injury, photographed on 14 July. The Israeli army fired the missile to warn the family that they were going to target the house next door belonging to Dr. Nasser al-Tatar, a tactic known as “roof-knocking.”

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Akram Awad, 38 years old, photographed on 31 July, had been an emergency medic for eight years when he was badly injured while responding to the site of an Israeli missile strike. “Around 3pm, we heard about the attack on the Shujaiya market area [east of Gaza City]. We got out to carry the injured and I went to the back of the ambulance to open the door. After four minutes, random shelling started and we were injured by two mortars nearby. My right leg has been amputated and my left leg was damaged. When I looked next to me there was an headless corpse. I was comforted when I realized that my chest was not hit. I started to lose consciousness but I managed to call for help via the radio.”

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Mahmoud Awad and his three-year-old-son Fares sit under a tent used as a temporary shelter at al-Shifa hospital grounds on 28 July after the destruction of their home in the Shujaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City. Fares clinged to a toy that his father offered him on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. “Who wants to celebrate Eid when so many people are dead?” asked Mahmoud.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Basem Abu Sayma, 23 years old, a trainee volunteer paramedic with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, photographed on 15 July. When asked if he was getting any rest, Basem answered, “The problem is not about the rest, it’s about stress. During the war there is no rest.”

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Salem Intez, 29 years old, is seen through a hole in the wall made by an Israeli shell in the home of his extended family in Shujaiya, east of Gaza City, on 18 July. The attack, which took place the day before, killed his two-year-old son, Muhammed Salem Intez, his 23-year-old brother-in-law, Abd al-Ali Intez, and his twelve-year-old brother, Muhammed Ibrahim Intez. Salem Intez explained that his family had fled their home in the neighborhood of Jabal al-Sourani along the boundary with Israel the night before because they were worried that their tin roof would not protect them from the Israeli shelling and thought they would be safer in the concrete house of their uncle in Shujaiya.

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Muntasser Bakr, eleven years old, in al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 19 July. Muntasser is one of the only two survivors from an Israeli attack on a group of children on the beach on 16 July. His cousins Ismail (11), Ahed (10), Zakaria (10) and Muhammad (9), who live in the same area, were killed by two Israeli missiles while playing on the beach.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Amna al-Toum, 75 years old, photographed on 13 July at the United Nations-administered Rimal elementary school which was used as a temporary shelter by Palestinians forced to leave from their houses in the northern part of the Gaza Strip after the Israeli military dropped warning leaflets on their neighborhood. Thirty members from the al-Toum family, who come from the Salatin area north of Gaza, were inside the classroom where they arrived earlier in the day with no belongings, hoping to return promptly to their home. The family was also displaced during Israel’s bombardments in winter 2008-09 and in November 2012.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Hussein Samir al-Najjar, 29 years old and photographed on 26 July, was injured after an Israeli attack on his home in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis. Two dozen members of the family, including residents from nearby battered Khuzaa who came to take refuge at their relatives’ place, were in the home when it was hit without warning. Twenty-one people were killed, including ten children. Before the attack, Hussein had sent two of his children, four-year-old Oulfat and seven-year-old Hussam, and two of his sisters to another sister’s home to ensure that the entire family wouldn’t be killed in a single strike. Hussein lost his pregnant 25-year-old wife, Riham, and his sons six-year-old Moataz and two-year-old Sameer, as well as his parents.

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Twenty-year-old Abeer Ahmad and her six-year-old brother Hamouda in their home in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza on 28 July. They opened their home to approximately fifty of their relatives who had fled Beit Hanoun. Abeer, a journalism student at al-Aqsa University, said: “Maybe this war will finish, but the suffering will continue. Everyone lost a home, a father, a sister, a friend. This is a new Nakba in Palestine.” The next day, Abeer’s family evacuated their home and fled to their relatives’ house in central Gaza.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Nineteen-year-old Mohammed al-Khayed, injured in Israeli military attacks on the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City, awaits treatment at al-Shifa hospital on 30 July.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Alexios opened the Church of Saint Porphyrius to those displaced by Israel’s bombing. “The baker provides bread, some provide water supplies and blankets, while others offer whatever they can,” the archbishop said, photographed on July 22. “It is one society here in Gaza, like a big village.”

Anne Paq ActiveStills

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