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Wednesday 17 June 2015

Backstories: the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin

An Arab man weeps in front of a portrait of late Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin on November 6, 1995 in Jerusalem, shortly before the funeral of the Israeli leader. (AFP PHOTO / MANOOCHER DEGHATI) An Arab man weeps in front of a portrait of late Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin on November 6, 1995 in Jerusalem, shortly before the funeral of the Israeli leader. (AFP PHOTO / MANOOCHER DEGHATI)

(AFP Photo / Manoocher Deghati)

In Backstories, a new video series by Laurent Kalfala and Sylvain Estibal, AFP journalists take us behind the scenes of a powerful moment in their career.

For the second instalment, Patrick Anidjar recalls how while based in Jerusalem, he was among the first journalists to learn of the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist on November 4, 1995.

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Friday 12 June 2015

Flight 847, into the hell of Beirut

One of two heavily-armed Lebanese Shiite militants, his face hidden with a bag, who hijacked a TWA passenger Boeing 727 aircraft, looks out from the door of the jetliner on June 20, 1985 at Beirut airport (AFP PHOTO/JOEL ROBINE) One of two heavily-armed Lebanese Shiite militants, his face hidden with a bag, who hijacked a TWA passenger Boeing 727 aircraft, looks out from the door of the jetliner on June 20, 1985 at Beirut airport (AFP PHOTO/JOEL ROBINE)

(AFP Photo / Joel Robine)


"On Friday June 14, 1985, Flight 847 of the US carrier TWA was travelling between Athens and Rome with eight crew and 145 passengers on board when it was diverted towards Beirut airport, opening one of the longest hijacking crises in aviation history," writes AFP's Patrick Rahir.

"Three days earlier I had watched three hijackers blow up a Boeing at Beirut airport. A day later a young Palestinian threatened to set off a hand grenade on a flight from Beirut to Cyprus. At first I thought it was a joke. Another hijacking, this time of an American plane?"

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Tuesday 17 March 2015

Under Gaza with Islamic Jihad

A Palestinian militant from the Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, squats in a tunnel under the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS) A Palestinian militant from the Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, squats in a tunnel under the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

(AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)


"We have visited Gaza tunnels dozens of times before – but only ever the ones linking the enclave to neighbouring Egypt and used to pass goods across the border," write AFP's Mahmoud Hams and Yahya Hassouna. "Today, we are going to get a glimpse of a world under Gaza and the fighters who dwell there. Those same fighters who vanished from view during last summer’s war. Islamic Jihad has agreed to take us down into the heart of its best-kept secret."

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Tuesday 24 February 2015

At the Hamas youth camp

A Palestinian youth crawls in a tunnel during a graduation ceremony for a training camp run by the Hamas movement on January 29, 2015 in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB) A Palestinian youth crawls in a tunnel during a graduation ceremony for a training camp run by the Hamas movement on January 29, 2015 in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

(AFP Photo / Said Khatib)


"We’ve been given a meeting point at the Yarmuk stadium in Gaza. My colleagues and I are here to watch thousands of youths ‘graduate’ from a training camp run by Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades," writes AFP's Mai Yaghi. "Each year since taking power in Gaza in 2007, the Islamist movement has staged 'summer camps' for boys aged 14 to 21 in the Palestinian enclave, dispensing religious education and combat training with the aim of 'resisting' sworn enemy Israel. But with swathes of Gaza in ruins following last year’s 50-day war with Israel, a record 17,000 youths enrolled for a week-long camp in January, overseen for the first time by Qassam militants."

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Wednesday 4 February 2015

Desert murmurations

A flock of starlings dances before landing to roost at the sunset near the city of Rahat, in Israel's Negev desert, on February 2, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA) A flock of starlings dances before landing to roost at the sunset near the city of Rahat, in Israel's Negev desert, on February 2, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

(AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)


"I’ve been watching out for them for a month now," writes AFP photographer Menahem Kahana. "Half a billion birds migrate here each year during the European winter, and among them the starlings are unique. They come in a cloud, tens, hundreds of thousands of them, and if you are lucky enough to be in the right spot, just before sunset, you can see them dance."

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Tuesday 27 January 2015

On 'Survivors’ Street'

Holocaust survivor Shoshana Colmer, 95, on January 21, 2015 in her apartment in a building housing Holocaust survivors in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa as part of a project by the Israeli NGO Yad Ezer (A Helping Hand) (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA) Holocaust survivor Shoshana Colmer, 95, on January 21, 2015 in her apartment in a building housing Holocaust survivors in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa as part of a project by the Israeli NGO Yad Ezer (A Helping Hand) (AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA)

(AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)


"I did as I would with my grandmother. Pulled my chair right up beside her, and asked in a loud, slightly dumb voice, as if speaking to a child, 'Do you like it here, then?' 'The food is good,' she replied. Silence. 'In Auschwitz I weighed 23 kilos.' Silence. Over the course of an hour Shoshana Colmer dives into her memories. Without coming up for air," writes Daphne Rousseau, after meeting the residents of a community in northern Israel known as as "Survivors' Street".

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Monday 26 January 2015

I am a human kaleidoscope

A protester holds a placard reading in French 'l am Charlie, I am free, I am Lebanese' on January 10, 2015 at Samir Kassir Square in Beirut (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO) A protester holds a placard reading in French 'l am Charlie, I am free, I am Lebanese' on January 10, 2015 at Samir Kassir Square in Beirut (AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO)

(AFP Photo / Anwar Amro)


"On Saturday the 10th of January – on the eve of the historic unity march held in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks – two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a café in the Jabal Mohsen quarter of Tripoli, in north Lebanon," writes AFP's Rita Daou. "The attack left nine people dead and 37 wounded. Late that night, still hard at work, I received a phone call from a journalist friend. 'What? Still working?' she exclaimed. 'Go to bed my dear. No one will use your story. Tomorrow is the Paris march. No one gives a hoot about Jabal Mohsen'."

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Tuesday 13 January 2015

Hunger games in a troubled land

A smuggler carries food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah (AFP PHOTO) A smuggler carries food from Kentucky Fried Chicken to be delivered through an underground tunnel linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt, on May 13, 2013 in Rafah (AFP PHOTO)

(AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)


"Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires both a strong stomach and a fertile imagination," writes Selim Saheb Ettaba, who recently left Jerusalem after four years as AFP's chief correspondent for Gaza and the West Bank. "However fond you are of eggplant, would you really want to eat it at every single meal, in an infinite variety of preparations, mashed or whole, stuffed, grilled or baked, plain or marinated? That was, in essence, the question facing me as I prepared to take up the job."

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Wednesday 8 October 2014

After war, Gaza goes back to school

Palestinian students sit in a classroom at a goverment school in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City on September 14, 2014 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams) Palestinian students sit in a classroom at a goverment school in the Shejaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City on September 14, 2014 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

(AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)


"Pictures of children going back to school in Gaza - I've taken hundreds of them", writes Mahmud Hams, a photographer at AFP Gaza bureau. "But those I took this year, I will never forget."

"On the children's faces, in place of the joy of being reunited with friends from school, or the enthusiasm of those beginning a new school year, you can often read anxiety and bad memories. When they get there, they don't know if they will find their school friends alive after Gaza lived through its deadliest war in years, a 50-day conflict which left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead. Among them were around 500 children."

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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Editing images of ‘hell’, in close-up

An editor at work at AFP's Middle East and North Africa photo desk in Nicosia (AFP Photo / Florian Choblet) An editor at work at AFP's Middle East and North Africa photo desk in Nicosia (AFP Photo / Florian Choblet)

(AFP Photo / Florian Choblet)


The photo and video editors in Nicosia, AFP's headquarters for the Middle East and North Africa, have to face a daily flood of unbearable images. It is their job to pore over the images from Syria, from Iraq, Gaza, Libya and other regional hotspots, and decide whether or not to publish them. It is their job to take in, for hours at a stretch each day, images of mutilated bodies, of wounded children screaming in pain, and - more recently - of hostages being beheaded.

Much of this ultra-violent imagery is unfit for publication under the criteria that AFP sets itself, and will end up in the bin. But not without inflicting a kind of repetitive shock to the journalists who have viewed it.

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Tuesday 16 September 2014

War as spectator sport in the Golan Heights

Israeli civilians stand near Mount Bental, in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, as they watch through binoculars the fighting between Syrian government troops and Islamist rebel fighters on September 2, 2014 (AFP / Menahem Kahana) Israeli civilians stand near Mount Bental, in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, as they watch through binoculars the fighting between Syrian government troops and Islamist rebel fighters on September 2, 2014 (AFP / Menahem Kahana)

(AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)


"It is before dawn on the Golan Heights and a squad of Syrian government troops are engaged in fierce combat with rebels of the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front", writes AFP Jerusalem-based photographer Menahem Kahana. "The clashes are taking place just metres from the barbed wire fence that separates the Syrian side of the strategic plateau from the Israeli-held sector. I am watching from an abandoned Israeli army bunker, around 100 metres from the demarcation line. This is war, taking place right before my eyes, and yet it could almost be another world. I am not a target, and none of the fighters cares remotely what is happening on the Israeli side."

"I have the strangest sense of being in a movie theatre."

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Wednesday 30 July 2014

Heartbreak: Reporting on Gaza’s child victims

A relative reacts after seeing the bodies of three Palestinian children, killed in an explosion in a public playground on the beachfront of Shati refugee camp. July 28, 2014. (AFP Photo/Marco Longari) A relative reacts after seeing the bodies of three Palestinian children, killed in an explosion in a public playground on the beachfront of Shati refugee camp. July 28, 2014. (AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

(AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

AFP Middle East correspondent Sara Hussein recently completed an assignment in Gaza, where more than 1,280 Palestinians have been killed - including more than 240 children.

WARNING: This blog includes distressing images from inside a morgue.

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