People looking through the window of the Beit Hanoun morgue, in the Gaza Strip, July 9, 2014.
Mohammed Masri, 9, victim of airstrike, is kissed on the forehead by a relative at the morgue of the Beit Hanoun hospital in the Gaza Strip, July 9, 2014.
Destruction caused by the ongoing conflict in north Gaza City, July 11, 2014.
Palestinians seek shelter after evacuating their homes located near the border with Israel, July 13, 2014.
A Palestinian man cries in the morgue of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, holding the body of his young brother, killed during Israeli naval bombardment, July 16, 2014.
Relatives of four boys from the Bakr family, mourning at their funeral in Gaza City, July 16, 2014.
Israeli army flares illuminate the sky above the Gaza Strip, July 18, 2014.
Relatives pray over the bodies of two brothers, named Amir and Mohammed, in a mosque in Gaza City, July 9, 2014.
Relatives comfort Suhar Elasem as she awaits the funeral of her two sons, seven and four years old, killed by Israeli tank shells that hit their home in the northern part of Gaza City, July 19, 2014.
Palestinians flee the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City during heavy Israeli shelling, July 20, 2014.
Palestinians prepare to leave Shejaiya during heavy Israeli shelling in Gaza City, July 20, 2014.
Palestinians leaving the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, July 20, 2014.
Following a heavy Israeli attack by shelling and airstrikes, smoke is seen in the Shejaiya district of Gaza City during a humanitarian cease-fire, July 20, 2014.
Palestinians carry a body into the Shifa Hospital morgue, Gaza City, July 20, 2014.
Displaced Palestinians who fled areas of the northern Gaza Strip are seen in the courtyard of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency school in Beit Lahiya, where they sought shelter, July 21, 2014.
Displaced Palestinians are seen in the courtyard of a UNRWA school in Beit Lahiya, where they sought shelter, July 21, 2014.
A Palestinian man looks through the window of his house to buildings damaged by an overnight airstrike in Gaza City, July 22, 2014.
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Innocents in the Crossfire: Alessio Romenzi's Shocking Photographs From Gaza

Jul 22, 2014

Correction appended, July, 22.

Italian photographer Alessio Romenzi harbors no illusions that his images of dead civilians—many of them children—caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will have an impact on the conflict. But he can't stay away from the story.

Romenzi, 40, has lived for the last five years between Israel and Palestine. In 2012, he documented Gaza during the Israeli Defense Forces' "Operation Pillar of Defense," which ended after just eight days.

This year, as Israel enters the third week of "Operation Protective Edge," Romenzi doesn't see a way out of the conflict. "I don't think the different sides know how to get out of this situation," he told TIME in a phone interview. "I can see that both sides are very determined to keep on fighting."

According to U.N. figures, 479 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed since July 8. The U.N. says that 121 Palestinian children have been killed. Since the murder of three Israeli teenagers – which, along with the killing of a Palestinian teen, partly led to the start of the war – no further Israeli children have died in the fighting. Doctors say armed operations – from Israel Defense Forces airstrikes to Hamas rocket attacks – have traumatized a large number of children on both sides of Gaza's borders. Critics of Israel say its military is killing too many civilians in its war against Hamas. The Israeli military says it does everything it can to avoid killing civilians and claims Hamas members deliberately seek shelter in civilian homes, putting those civilians in harm's way.

"It's a common theme to all wars," Romenzi says. "You have two sides, and civilians—people who are guilty of nothing—are caught in the middle. Sometimes people die because they were at the wrong place at the wrong moment. They were near a target. But nobody knows exactly where these target are and why they are targets."

Romenzi is used to covering conflicts—he was in Syria in 2012 and in Libya the year before. Each time, he deliberately chose to focus on civilian victims. "Children should never be touched by war," he says. "But here . . . a very high percentage of victims are children." And while his images can be tough on viewers, Romenzi doubts his work will have any short-term effect on public opinion. "[Every] day, people stop me and ask me why the world is not intervening to stop [what's going on]. They ask me why all these children, all these innocents, are going through all of this once again. I don't think the world is prepared to do anything. There's been a lot of talk, a lot of [outrage], but there's nothing happening on the ground."

The problem, Romenzi tells TIME, is that these images of dead kids are not effective anymore. "We've seen them before and we are again in the same situation," he says. But he takes comfort in the thought that his work will be remembered later on. "We, photographers, are doing this for the future."

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of casualties in the Gaza conflict. According to official U.N. figures, 479 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed since July 8.

Alessio Romenzi is an editorial, corporate and portrait photographer whose work has appeared in TIME, Newsweek, the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, among others. See his earlier work 'Syria Under Siege' on LightBox.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ olivierclaurent

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