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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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James Foley: focus on humanity amid suffering

Wednesday 20 August 2014 - Behind the image

James Foley in Aleppo, November 5, 2012. (AFP Photo/Nicole Tung)

James Foley: focus on humanity amid suffering


Colleagues remember the American reporter James Foley, a beloved companion who was executed by jihadist militants. (AFP Photo/Nicole Tung)

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The priest with a huge heart

Wednesday 9 April 2014 - Eye witness

Father Frans van der Lugt posing at the monastery of the Jesuit Fathers where he lived in the besieged area of Homs in Syria. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abu Hamza)

Beirut-based AFP journalist Karim Abou Merhi reflects on the life and death of Father Frans van der Lugt, the Dutch priest who was murdered in Homs this week. Abou Merhi had interviewed the peace activist via Skype in February and was struck by his unshakable desire to help the Syrian people, and the hope he continued to express despite enduring hardship

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A moment of peace in Syria's devastating conflict

Tuesday 18 February 2014 - Behind the image

A rebel (left) walks past members of the pro-regime Syrian National Defence Forces in Babbila on February 17, 2014. (AFP Photo/Louai Beshara)

It’s an incredible scene: Syrian pro-regime forces mingling amicably with rebel fighters in a southern Damascus suburb.

The powerful images of one of the ceasefires around the nation’s capital were captured by AFP photographer Louai Beshara and reported on by journalist Rim Haddad from the agency’s Damascus bureau. Here, Haddad tells the story behind the truce, a rare bright spot in a devastating conflict that has lasted almost three years and claimed more than 140,000 lives.

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Interviewing Bashar al-Assad

Thursday 23 January 2014 - Behind the image


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during his interview.  (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)

"We’d been trying for two years to interview Syrian President Bashar al-Assad without any luck. It’s not easy for the media to reach the president of a country in a full-blown civil war whom Western powers and opponents have accused of war crimes.

Then, suddenly, on Tuesday, January 14, one of the president’s staff calls me at my bureau in Beirut. He asks me to come to Damascus the next day to meet up with the head of the president’s media and communication office..."

AFP's Beirut bureau chief Sammy Ketz describes his rare interview with Assad in Damascus, ahead of the ongoing peace talks in Geneva. (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)

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Syria online: using the Internet to cover a war

Monday 16 December 2013 - Eye witness

After a mortar attack in Aleppo, November 6, 2013. (AFP Photo / Mahmud al-Halabi)

With kidnappings and targeted killings a tragic reality, it has become almost impossible for journalists to work on their own in Syria. So instead of writing dispatches from the ground, reporters are looking for alternatives. Serene Assir, an AFP correspondent in Beirut, describes how the Internet plays a key role in covering this conflict that is all but off-limits for non-local journalists.

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Syrian refugees go hungry in Istanbul park

Tuesday 5 November 2013 - Behind the image

(AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

Syrian refugees go hungry in Istanbul park


More than 600,000 Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring Turkey since conflict broke out in their country in March 2011. About a third of them are crowded into about 20 camps near the border, with the remainder spread across Turkey. In recent months, more and more of them have been seen in Istanbul. AFP photographer Bulent Kilic saw the increasing desperation of some of these people in an Istanbul park.

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Death of the 'Brave One'

Monday 30 September 2013 - Eye witness

The photographer Murhaf al-Modahi, who used the alias Abu Shuja. (AFP Photo)

Photographer Murhaf al-Modahi, who used the alias Abu Shuja and contributed to AFP, was killed in a rocket attack on September 28 in his hometown of Deir Ezzor, in the east of Syria. He was 26. Patrick Baz, the agency's photo head for the Middle East and North Africa region pays tribute.

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In Damascus, fear has many faces

Wednesday 25 September 2013 - Eye witness

In Old Damascus, September 21, 2013. (AFP Photo / Anwar Amro)

“In Damascus, fear has many faces,” writes Rana Moussaoui, a Beirut-based correspondent for AFP. “Security agents -- and regular residents -- regularly stopped to ask us what we were doing, demanding to see our filming permits or, more troublingly, asking us what people had told us”. (AFP Photo)

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Lavrov steals some limelight from Kerry

Sunday 15 September 2013 - Eye witness

Detail of cartoon portrait of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov done by  Fox News television correspondent James Rosen.

"For almost two hours we'd been waiting for US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to reveal whether they had a deal on Syria's chemical weapons," reports AFP's Jo Biddle. "And then in one extraordinary moment, Lavrov slipped unannounced into the back of a ballroom in a Geneva hotel where the world's press was camped out Saturday and stole a bit of thunder from his 'good friend' Kerry."

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Syria’s bloodied citadel, from Crusades to civil war

Wednesday 24 July 2013 - Eye witness

In the Krak des Chevaliers, June 2012. AFP PHOTO

At the end of June 2012, AFP journalist Djilali Belaid found his way to Krak des Chevaliers, Syria’s legendary fortress from the time of the Crusades. He remains the only foreign journalist to have done so since the start of the civil war, and had several brushes with death during the assignment.

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Another day in Aleppo

Friday 28 June 2013 - Behind the image

Injured rebel fighters downed by sniper fire in Aleppo, Syria, wait for comrades to rescue them during during clashes with pro-government forces in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood.

Another day in Aleppo


AFP freelance photographer Abo al-Nur Sadk (his nom de guerre) takes cover during a firefight in Syria as a pair of rebel fighters, downed by sniper fire, wait for darkness to be rescued.

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Found in translation: A guardian angel in Syria's war

Wednesday 5 June 2013 - Eye witness

A Syrian rebel observes regime positions in the Saif al-Dawla district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 5, 2013.

"I am on my knees, hands behind my head, on a border-crossing between Turkey and Syria. A Turkish border guard stoops over me menacingly, the nozzle of his Kalashnikov pressing against my upper thigh as he barks something in an unfamiliar language," writes AFP correspondent Anuj Chopra, who recently spent two weeks in Syria, where he learned the importance of having a good translator.

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Syria: deadly for journalists too

Thursday 2 May 2013 - Decoding

An image grab taken from a video on YouTube on October 1, 2012 shows American freelance journalist  Austin Tice, 31-years-old,  blindfolded with men believed to be his captors at an undisclosed location in Syria.

Gathering news in Syria has become a dangerous, and sometimes deadly, assignment, whether for foreign correspondents, Syrian reporters or a growing legion of 'citizen journalists' who relay what they witness via Facebook and Twitter. AFP has recently tightened its rules for fielding reports from Syria, part of an effort to avoid undue risk. (AFP Photo/HO/Youtube)

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Syria offers grim bounty for photojournalists

Friday 26 April 2013 - Behind the image

An injured Syrian rebel fighter is treated at local a hospital in the center of Syria's northern city of Aleppo on October 24, 2012, following shelling by government forces.
AFP Photo

Syria offers grim bounty for photojournalists


As Syria’s conflict enters its third year, the country’s demolished cityscapes and bloodied population continue to provide a lamentably rich tableau for photographers. And while it may seem strange to laud images of destruction and suffering, photojournalism awards can also serve to keep important issues in the public eye.

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A Pulitzer picture first day on the job

Tuesday 16 April 2013 - Behind the image

Two Syrian rebels take sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo on October 18, 2012.
AFP Photo/Javier Manzano

A Pulitzer picture first day on the job


“Javier Manzano took this masterpiece of a rebel sniper in Aleppo, Syria, along with three other stunning images we moved on AFP’s photo wire, on his first day working with the agency,” recalls AFP’s Deputy Photo Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hasan Mroue, who validated the photos. “Another colleague was with me when we chose them, and we both could see that this was winning material of superior artistic skill besides its news worthiness and the courage it takes to be in such a dangerous spot.”

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Carnage in the heart of Damascus

Thursday 11 April 2013 - Behind the image

Rescue teams and security forces inspect the scene of a deadly car bomb explosion which rocked central Damascus on April 8, 2013.
AFP Photo/Louai Beshara

Carnage in the heart of Damascus


"It was an ordinary day in Damascus: we woke up to the sound of bombs falling on not-so-distant suburb, and then dropped our kids off at school without the comforting certainty that we would see them again," reports AFP photographer Louai Bachara, based in the Syrian capital. "It has been like that for almost a year now. A few days earlier, a technician in the AFP bureau was injured when a bomb exploded near his car." Things were about to get a lot worse. 

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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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Fighting for Aleppo, inch-by-inch

Tuesday 13 November 2012 - Behind the image

Two Syrian rebels take sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo on October 18, 2012.
AFP Photo/Javier Manzano

Fighting for Aleppo, inch-by-inch


AFP photographer Javier Manzano, embedded with Syrian rebels in the embattled city of Aleppo, describes how rebel and regime combatants travel -- sometimes for entire city blocks -- beyond the gaze of enemy snipers by burrowing their way through contiguous walls. But when those "walls", as above, are no more than corrugated tin, they offer scant protection against flying shrapnel and large caliber rounds.   

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'Four days later, he was dead...'

Monday 12 November 2012 - Eye witness

A Syrian rebel fighter takes aim at government forces, from a flat in a rebel controlled building on the front line in Aleppo's northern Izaa quarter, on November 3, 2012.

"I met Abu Ibrahim by chance," said AFP correspondent Jennie Matthew, recalling a rebel fighter she encountered while reporting on the civil war in Syria that has claimed an estimated 40,000 lives over the last year and a half. "Four days later he was dead." Here Mathews, who is still covering the conflict on the ground, remembers the former policeman who decided that it was worth risking his life to help end the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)

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