Young Palestinian Journalist Killed by Israeli Forces in Gaza

Yaser Murtaja had often filmed from the sky, but he never lived to fulfill his dream of flying on an airplane.

The young journalist shot drone images and video for Ain Media, a small Gaza-based news agency he started five years ago. Just two weeks ago, he posted an aerial photo of Gaza City’s port on Facebook, one of his last posts.

“I wish that the day would come to take this shot when I’m in the air and not on the ground,” he wrote. “My name is Yaser Murtaja. I’m 30-years-old. I live in Gaza City. I’ve never traveled!”

Murtaja, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, died Saturday after being shot the day before by Israeli forces while covering protests at the edge of the Gaza Strip.

He had tried tirelessly to see beyond blockaded Gaza, including to travel for a training course with Al Jazeera in Doha, but he never managed to leave, friends and family said.

Only a tiny proportion of the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are ever able to get out because of tight travel restriction by Israel — which says such limitations are necessary for security reasons because of the militant group Hamas controlling the area — and only sporadic opening of the Egyptian border.

For many young people, the 140-square-mile strip of territory on the Mediterranean is the only world they know.

Murtaja was laid to rest Saturday in the land he never left, his body carried through the streets of Gaza City draped in a Palestinian flag and the blue-and-white vest marked “press” that he was wearing when he was shot.

Murtaja, who friends and family describe as ambitious and always smiling, was one of nine people killed Friday after Israeli troops used live ammunition as tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered to protest at the heavily guarded boundary with Gaza.

Five other journalists were injured by live fire, as well, according to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate. They were clearly identifiable as journalists, the syndicate said, raising further questions over Israel’s insistence that its use of snipers on the crowds at the border is carefully targeted.

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SOURCE: The Boston Globe, Loveday Morris