Yasser Murtaja, 31, was shot by Israeli forces while covering Fridays protests at the Gaza border
Hundreds of colleagues and friends have attended the funeral of a popular and widely respected Palestinian video journalist who was killed as he covered Fridays mass border protests in the Gaza Strip.
Yasser Murtaja, 31, was shot despite wearing a flak jacket with clear press markings as he filmed in thick black smoke from burning tyres set alight by protesters in Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis. He was one of at least nine Palestinians killed by Israeli fire at various points along the border during the day.
Fridays deaths brought to 31 the total of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the past week.
The Israeli military, which insists that it fires only at instigators involved in attacks on soldiers, said it was investigating Murtajas death. It added that its troops were operating in accordance with clear rules of engagement and that it did not intentionally target journalists.
Murtajas body, draped in a Palestinian flag, was carried from the principal al-Omari mosque in Gaza City to the cemetery. After the burial, freelance photojournalist Shadi al-Assar, described how his friend who was married with a two-year-old son had been standing with him about 100 metres from the border fence when he decided to go into the smoke to get a better shot.
Some time later I saw some of the young guys carrying him out on a stretcher. I wanted to take a picture of it and then I realised it was Yasser, my friend. He and others had removed the jacket and uncovered a small entry wound in his left side. I thought it was a light injury, said Assar. But Murtaja, who was taken by ambulance to Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, died in the early hours of Saturday.
Assar, 35, added: He was a good guy, always smiling and loved by everybody. He was very ambitious, always looking for a better shot. Like many Gazans of his generation, Murtaja had never been out of the Strip.
One of the first journalists to use camera drones in Gaza, Murtaja founded Ain Media, a TV production company that has done work for foreign clients including the BBC and Al Jazeera English. Under a drone image of the Gaza port that he posted on Facebook, he wrote: I wished I could take this photo from the sky, not from land. My name is Yasser Murtaja, I am 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I have never travelled.
Although Murtaja is understood to have been independent of all political factions, the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh attended his funeral. He said the weekly protests described as the Return March represented a battle of truth and awareness. Yasser held his camera to direct the arrows of truth to convey the image of the besieged people.
The 31 deaths in the past eight days include 19 Palestinians who were killed in the previous mass demonstrations on March or died subsequently of their wounds, along with two armed militants shot dead by Israeli troops in a separate border incident.
Hamas has admitted that five of those killed on 30 March were members of its military wing, while Israel has said that 10 of the 19 dead were identified as belonging to Hamas or other factions.
The protests are expected to continue over the next month and scheduled to reach their climax in mid-May, when Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the nakba, or catastrophe, when more than 700,000 were driven out or fled their homes in what is now Israel during the war of 1948.