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Under Gaza with Islamic Jihad

Tuesday 17 March 2015 - Eye witness

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)

"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."

(Photo: AFP / Mahmud Hams)

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At the Hamas youth camp

Tuesday 24 February 2015 - Eye witness

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)

"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."

(Photo: AFP / Said Khatib)

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Desert murmurations

Wednesday 4 February 2015 - Eye witness

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)

"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."

(Photo: AFP / Menahem Kahana)

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On 'Survivors’ Street'

Tuesday 27 January 2015 - Eye witness

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)

"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".

(AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana)

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I am a human kaleidoscope

Monday 26 January 2015 - Eye witness

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)

"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'."

(AFP Photo / Ibrahim Chalhoub)

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Hunger games in a troubled land

Tuesday 13 January 2015 - Debriefing

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)

"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."

(AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)

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After war, Gaza goes back to school

Wednesday 8 October 2014 - Eye witness


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)

"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."

(AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)


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Editing images of ‘hell’, in close-up

Wednesday 1 October 2014 - Decoding


An editor at work at AFP's Middle East and North Africa photo desk in Nicosia (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.

(AFP Photo / Florian Choblet)


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War as spectator sport in the Golan Heights

Tuesday 16 September 2014 - Behind the image


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

War as spectator sport in the Golan Heights


"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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Heartbreak: Reporting on Gaza’s child victims

Wednesday 30 July 2014 - Behind the image

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)

Heartbreak: Reporting on Gaza’s child victims


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.

(AFP Photo/Marco Longari)

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Whirlwind peace drive: Kerry in job of his life

Sunday 7 July 2013 - Decoding

US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement to the press regarding his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the US Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 2, 2013.

AFP's Washington-based Shaun Tandon tagged along with John Kerry on the US Secretary of State's most recent road trip, this one to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Watching Kerry in action makes one wonder: has the former presidential hopeful found his true calling? (AFP Photo/pool/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Shooting beyond the violence

Saturday 22 December 2012 - Behind the image

A man carrying his shopping runs for cover amid sniper shots on an Aleppo road in Syria, September 14, 2012.
AFP PHOTO/Marco Longari

Shooting beyond the violence


AFP's Marco Longari was this week named as Time magazine’s wire photographer of 2012, in recognition of what the US publication described as his "indispensable" coverage from across the Middle East. He discusses some of his compelling work from the past year that saw him in Gaza, Egypt and Syria, among other places.

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Dateline Gaza: family on the (front)line

Friday 30 November 2012 - Eye witness

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"For AFP's team of Gaza-based journalists, a flare up of violence with Israel is nothing new -- with bombings, air strikes and death and destruction all part-and-parcel of living in this tiny strip of land," explains AFP's deputy bureau chief in Jerusalem. "But covering this latest round of violence was tough, with round-the-clock Israeli air strikes hammering residential and business districts that were once thought of relatively safe, exposing AFP staff and their families to a new level of risk." (AFP Photo)

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Gaza: 'Should I be filming this?'

Friday 23 November 2012 - Eye witness

Blood leaks from under the door of the al-Shifa hospital morgue in Gaza City on November 20, 2012.“Covering a conflict like the one that just ravaged the Gaza Strip for eight days confronts a journalist with the terrible spectacle of dozens of corpses, of both adults and children, that are often displayed by their families in a hellish atmosphere,” explains AFP video correspondent Guillaume Bonnet, in Gaza on special assignment. How does a journalist cope? (AFP PHOTO/Marco Longari)

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