TIME Middle East

Video Depicts ISIS Execution of British Aid Worker, Threatens American

Alan Henning was thought to have been abducted in Syria last December

Updated Saturday, Oct. 4

A video released Friday by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) appears to show the execution of British aid worker Alan Henning. A man identified as Peter Edward Kassig, an American, is then threatened with a similar fate.

U.S. intelligence officials had not yet authenticated the video Friday evening, but it follows the pattern of other execution videos released by ISIS. “The brutal murder of Alan Henning by [ISIS] shows just how barbaric these terrorists are,” British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

The White House also released a statement:

“The United States strongly condemns the brutal murder of United Kingdom citizen Alan Henning by the terrorist group ISIL. Mr. Henning worked to help improve the lives of the Syrian people and his death is a great loss for them, for his family and the people of the United Kingdom. Standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan’s murder – as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines – to justice. Standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners, we will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

Henning, 47, was thought to have been abducted in Syria last December, shortly after crossing the border from Turkey in an aid convoy. Henning’s wife and family released the following statement Saturday morning:

Alan, my husband, and father of Lucy and Adam, was kidnapped in Syria in December last year. Last night we received news of his murder by ISIL. It is the news we hoped we would never hear. As a family we are devastated by the news of his death. There are few words to describe how we feel at this moment. Myself, Lucy and Adam, and all of Alan’s family and friends are numb with grief.

During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of many people. That support from the Government, FCO and GMP has been there from the start and has meant that we were able to get through the most awful of times. We always knew that Alan was in the most dangerous of situations but we hoped that he would return home to us. That is not to be.

On behalf of the entire family, I want to thank everyone who campaigned for Alan’s release, who held vigils to pray for his safe return, and who condemned those who took him. Your efforts were a great support to us, and we take comfort in knowing how many people stood beside us in hoping for the best.

Alan was a decent, caring human being. His interest was in the welfare of others. He will be remembered for this and we as a family are extremely proud of him and what he achieved and the people he helped.

We now need time to come to terms with our loss. We would therefore be grateful if our privacy could be respected at this time.

The video is similar to three earlier execution videos released by ISIS since Aug. 19, which showed the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and most recently of British aid worker David Haines.

Kassig, a former Army Ranger who deployed to Iraq in 2007, spoke with TIME in January 2013 about his humanitarian work and beginning an aid group called Special Emergency Response and Assistance.

“I started SERA because I felt that we could fill a niche as an organization that had not been filled. There are a lot of other wonderful organizations out there but we feel that by working directly with the people who are in need at a grassroots level allows for us to establish an invaluable personal relationship that not only allows us to effectively distribute material goods but also allows for an opportunity for an increased level of cooperation and an exchange of ideas between people from diverse backgrounds and experiences and that this enhances our ability to accurately meet needs. The personal connection is key.”

Kassig’s family released this video statement Saturday morning:

TIME Turkey

Photos Show ‘Unprecedented’ Shift of Refugees Into Turkey

More than 138,000 Syrian Kurds have crossed the border

Among the top accusations against Turkey during Syria’s ongoing civil war has been that its government has not done enough to stem the flow of foreigners who slip over its border and into the ruthless jihadi groups operating between Syria and Iraq. But just as those thousands have crossed the boundary into Syria and Iraq to take up arms — some are thought to have joined extremist factions like the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) — Turkey’s 560-mile-long border has also proven a valuable exit for more than 1 million Syrian refugees.

Officials estimate more than 138,000 Syrian Kurds joined them in recent days, putting that exodus among the largest population shifts of the conflict since it began more than three years ago. The influx resulted from fierce battles between ISIS and Kurdish forces near the city of Ayn al-Arab, known to the Kurds as Kobani, following the militants’ seizure of Kurdish villages near the border during a recent advance. To put that figure into perspective, Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency, says the “unprecedented” push into Turkey is nearly equal to the number of Syrian refugees who have sought asylum in Europe during the war.

Kobani is a short leap from the Turkish town of Suruc and had previously been mostly spared from the fighting that has devastated other parts of Syria. “This was really an enclave of relative safety, Kobani, and in fact there were 200,000 internally displaced people who had found some semblance of safety there over the last few years,” she tells TIME. “It was a place to flee to, and now all of a sudden it’s a place to flee from.” Fleming added that the agency is now preparing for a worst-case scenario in which all 400,000 residents of Kobani flee to Turkey to escape the threat.

Bulent Kilic, a Turkish photographer with Agence France-Presse based in Istanbul, arrived to the region late on Sept. 19 and began shooting the next morning. Kilic had seen media reports beginning to focus on this area and, having missed the opportunity in August to document the tragedy of the Yezidis on Mount Sinjar in Iraq, boarded a plane and headed southeast. The first wave began slowly on Thursday but soon ticked up, with the big surge coming over on Friday and Saturday.

Turkish officials had initially barred the Syrian Kurds from passage, but later reversed course and opened border crossings — “without any ethnic or sectarian discrimination,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the time. And so they moved, on foot, with whatever they could carry. Those who crossed were mostly women, children and the elderly or injured, Kilic recalls, as most of the men and boys of fighting age stayed behind. “They left everything behind them — their toys, their homes, everything,” he says.

Kilic knows these types of scenes well. He covered the unrest during Turkey’s Gezi Park demonstrations last year, deadly clashes in Ukraine this past February and the Soma mine blast in May. He saw similar scenes of despair over the last few days, but his prior experiences doesn’t make them any easier to encounter. There was one moment he says moved him the most: a family at the border had three children, a few elders and two or three others. There were also a trio of goats that the adults were hoping to walk into Turkey. But the animals’ entry was denied.

“Their mother was trying to get them to come with her, but the children were crying because they couldn’t take the goats. At the same time, she was trying to control the goats. It was very dramatic,” he says.

The family left one or two people to take care of the animals near the border as the others, including the children, pressed on. Kilic says this story reminded him of his childhood because he would often care for his grandfather’s goats in his hometown.

“I understood them,” he admits. “They couldn’t leave these goats on the other side. They loved these goats and they didn’t want to leave because if they leave the goats, they’ll die or disappear or someone will take them. I couldn’t watch, I couldn’t continue, I started shooting something else.”

Making the pictures he wants to make in situations like this is difficult, Kilic says, but the best ones to him are those that show the humanity of his subjects and the reality of what he’s seen.

TIME Middle East

In Photos: Injured Syrian Refugees Adjust to Life With Prosthetics

One in 30 Syrian refugees in Lebanon was injured in the civil war

Some 200,000 people have died in Syria’s ongoing civil war—and there’s no end in sight. But it’s the impact on those who make it out alive and injured—often severely—that can sometimes be forgotten.

More than 3 million Syrians are registered as refugees outside their home country, the latest U.N. figures show. Turkey, Iraq and Jordan have all taken in hundreds of thousands of them, but nearly 1.2 million have crossed into Lebanon. According to an April report by Handicap International, one in 30 Syrian refugees in Lebanon had been injured, which means that tens of thousands of people there are carrying permanent scars from the war.

Irish photographer Andrew McConnell has been based in Beirut for about two and a half years. During that time he has frequently photographed along the Syrian border and covered the refugee crisis in Lebanon from its earliest stages, watching the numbers grow from a few thousand refugees largely hidden in society to a mass that is now equal to more than a fifth of Lebanon’s pre-war population, spread throughout urban areas and informal settlements.

Earlier this year, when McConnell was on contract working alongside UNHCR and a partner organization called the World Rehabilitation Fund, he met more than 20 refugees who were receiving rehabilitation treatment, including prosthetics.

McConnell was moved by stories from people like Fatima, a 15-year-old living at a tented settlement near Tripoli, who had been traveling with her brother and father to Homs in 2011 when a bomb fell on the road. The next thing Fatima knew, she was waking up in the hospital without her right leg. She became depressed after being provided with an ill-fitting prosthetic, but her mood lifted after receiving a better-fitting one from the WRF.

He also met 15-year-old Nawaf at a rehabilitation center in Tripoli, who was severely burned when a bomb hit his house near Hama. His uncle rushed him to a nearby field hospital but doctors had to amputate his right arm above the elbow. The boy later received a prosthetic arm and is learning a range of moments, and is slowly becoming more self-reliant. But, McConnell notes, “you just wonder what’s ahead for him, trying to cope with this new reality.”

But it was Hussein, a 10-year-old living in a collective shelter in Tripoli, with whom McConnell spent the most time. Hussein had been presumed dead after a bomb hit his home in Syria, but was found unconscious at the morgue the next day as bodies were being prepared for burial. The boy received two artificial limbs after doctors amputated both legs above the knee.

“At first, he was very apprehensive about this foreigner and having his picture taken and telling his story,” says McConnell. “He was deeply traumatized but I remember he had probably the most state-of-the-art prosthetics that I saw.” After spending more time with the boy and as Hussein became more accustomed to his new legs, his mood changed and he opened up a bit. “I remember pacing alongside him as he learned how to walk again.”

TIME Crime

The Oscar Pistorius Case: How It All Began

The March 11, 2013, cover of TIME
The March 11, 2013, cover of TIME Cover Credit: PIETER HUGO / THE NEW YORK TIMES SYNDICATE

In March 2013, TIME took a deep look at the origins of the Pistorius case

The murder trial that transfixed the world for much of 2014 began drawing to a close on Thursday, as a South African judge found Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius “negligent” but not guilty of murdering his girlfriend. Pistorius, 27, fired four shots into a bathroom at his Pretoria home in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, killing model Reeva Steenkamp, but based his defense on thinking she was an intruder.

Global media relentlessly followed the case, which at times grew graphic and included a break so Pistorius’ mental health could be evaluated by experts. The judge is expected to issue a formal verdict on Friday, Sept. 12. Pistorius can still be found guilty of culpable homicide, or murder without premeditation, and may face years in prison.

Last March, TIME featured Pistorius in a cover story about this tragic series of events — not just it’s beginning between Pistorius and Steenkamp, but also in terms of the place of violence in South African society. The relationship between that culture and the famous athlete is a meaningful one, Alex Perry wrote:

If South Africa reveals its reality through crime, it articulates its dreams through sports. When in 1995—a jittery year after the end of apartheid—South Africa’s first black President, Nelson Mandela, adopted the Afrikaner game, rugby, and cheered the national team on to a World Cup win, he was judged to have held the country together. In 2010 his successors in the ANC delivered the message that Africa was the world’s newest emerging market and open for business through the faultless staging of a soccer World Cup.

Pistorius was the latest incarnation of South African hope. He was born without a fibula in either leg, and both were amputated below the knee before he reached his first birthday. Using prosthetics, Pistorius went on to play able-bodied sports at Pretoria Boys High School, one of the country’s most prestigious private schools, before a knee injury left him on the sidelines. Advised to run for his recovery, he began clocking astonishing times using carbon-fiber blades that copied the action of a cheetah. In 2012 in London, he took two Paralympic gold medals and one silver and ran in an Olympic final and semifinal.

That March 11, 2013, story is now available free of charge in TIME’s archives. Click here to read it in its entirety: Pistorius and South Africa’s Culture of Violence

Read next: Oscar Pistorius Gets 5 Years for the Culpable Homicide of Reeva Steenkamp

TIME Terrorism

Why Westerners Are Fighting for ISIS

A growing number of Westerners are joining the Islamist militant group— but why?

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is gaining notoriety for its barbaric methods, after videos showing beheadings and mass killings surfaced online.

Meanwhile, the group has been attracting an increasing number of foreign fighters from the West, analysts say. But why are so many foreigners joining ISIS’s fighting ranks? Among a range of explanations, one of them is that, compared with other jihadist groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS is extremely welcoming to foreigners, says Joshua Landis, a Syria specialist at the University of Oklahoma.

“The biggest reason for that is that ISIS philosophically has welcomed all Muslims as equals, as it’s building an Islamic state which does not have particular Syrian angle,” Landis says. “Also, ISIS’s leadership is made of people with very prominent roles that are foreigners so you’re not going to be discriminated against philosophically if you’re foreign.”

Social media also plays a significant role.

While in the past jihadist groups operated in secretive online forums, ISIS spreads its message — both in English and Arabic — on Twitter and Facebook, which are inherently open to the public. With its sleekly produced propaganda videos, ISIS reaches young, restless Muslims or other devotees around the world with a cause that they see is worth fight for, experts say.

“For many people who are lacking a strong sense of identity and purpose, their violent radical global narrative provides easy answers and solutions: it can be very powerful message for people who are looking for answers,” says Matthew Levitt, the director of counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Their online material shows capturing territory, establishing states, beheading enemies: they show that they are the sexiest jihadi group on the block.”

The U.S. State Department estimates that about 12,000 foreigners have traveled to Syria from at least 50 different countries to fight with a number of different groups, including ISIS. Marie Harf, a deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, told CNN that officials estimate the number of Americans fighting with Syrian-based groups ranges from several dozen to 100.

For more on ISIS’ recruiting techniques, watch the video above with TIME editor Matt McAllester.

TIME Iceland

Look at These Incredible Close-Ups of a Volcanic Eruption in Iceland

Among the first scenes from Bardarbunga's latest activity

Update: Sept. 3, 1:56 p.m.

Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson has been photographing volcanoes in Iceland for four decades, so it makes sense that he’s keeping a close eye on the latest activity at Bardarbunga, which rests on the northwestern edge of the Vatnajokull ice cap.

Bardarbunga, which is classified by Iceland’s meteorological office as its second highest mountain, is topped with glacial ice. Officials say the current bout of seismic activity began on Aug. 16 after a gradual intensification over the past seven years.

While this volcano has not yet led to the same transportation mayhem that the Eyjafjallajokull eruption did in 2010, when more than 100,000 flights were canceled and Europe’s airspace was closed for six days over fears that billowing ash could harm aircraft engines, travel warnings have been elevated to “orange,” which means the volcano “shows heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption.”

Sigurdsson, 56, of Arctic Images, is based near the Icelandic capital, Reykjavík. He and a friend traveled an hour and a half in a two-seater plane from Akureyri, in the north, to Bardarbunga and the nearby Holuhraun lava field. No one lives at this barren location, but heavy seismic activity to the north has led to closed roads and the evacuation of tourists.

“We flew as close as we possibly could — and legally permitted,” Sigurdsson tells TIME. Officials had briefly raised the warning to “red” after a fresh lava eruption, which barred their aircraft from descending lower than 6,000 ft.

Sigurdsson seated himself behind the pilot and opened a window to shoot. Heavy turbulence made for a rough session, though. “I was strapped down into my seat and was still thrown up to the ceiling,” he says. In terms of gear, Sigurdsson used a Canon 5D Mark III with a 70-200mm lens, as well as two Sony cameras with a 24-70mm lens.

“We would stay upwind at all times,” he says, adding that the plane could only spend just less than an hour at the site. “We did some circles around the volcano, and then we had to leave because the weather was getting so much worse.”

Sigurdsson knows the scenes look intense but relishes working in such extreme environments. “It looks like we are daredevils or Indiana Jones or something,” he says, “but we were playing it safe. We knew exactly what we were doing.” Still, with thousands of earthquakes over the past few weeks, there are concerns that a big one could open up another fissure, which could lead to a large eruption.

He returned the next day under better weather conditions.

TIME will be publishing more exclusive images from Sigurdsson as events progress.

TIME Behind the Photos

Harrowing Images of Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak

The World Health Organization reported on Aug. 19 that more than 1,200 people have died in the massive Ebola outbreak across West Africa, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone at the epicenter. The situation, officials say, is considered “out of control.”

John Moore, a photojournalist with Getty Images based in New York, is in Monrovia to document what has quickly become the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record. He speaks with TIME’s Andrew Katz about what he’s seen on the ground. This email interview has been lightly edited for clarity. (This gallery has been updated.)


LightBox: How did you end up covering this Ebola outbreak?

John Moore: I pitched the trip to my editors [at Getty] after I read [about] the Ebola situation in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, described as “catastrophic.” The idea that burial teams were driving around town collecting bodies from people’s homes seemed horrific. Also, most hospitals and clinics have closed, both because many untrained health workers were infected, and because the public is afraid to go to them. This means that sick people who don’t have Ebola are dying as well. It seemed an important story to cover. I got the green light, purchased all my protective clothing, and booked a flight.

LightBox: You’re coming into very close contact with people who are infected or have died from Ebola. How did you prepare for a trip like this? What kind of gear are you wearing around and how concerned are you about accidentally contracting the virus, even though it’s not airborne? And how did those preparations adapt after you arrived?

Getty Images staff photographer John Moore wears protective clothing, knows as personal protective equipment (PPE), before joining a Liberian burial team set to remove the body of an Ebola victim from her home in August 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.

J.M.: When I have visited isolation wards or have accompanied burial teams into homes where they collect bodies, I have been wearing protective clothing known as personal protective equipment, or PPE. I brought 24 sets of coveralls, masks and boot covers, a half dozen goggles, some rubber boots and about 400 rubber gloves. I also brought various types of hand sanitizer and wipes. When I go into obviously infected areas, I do so with health workers wearing the same outfits. We all dress together and afterward undress, with each piece coming off in a specific order and someone spraying me with disinfectant at each step. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but that’s the way it works. It’s important for people to remember that this is not an airborne virus, but is rather transmitted through bodily fluids, so the protective protocols are not a mystery. As a photographer, I am not coming into contact with bodily fluids, but I take those precautions, of course, anyway.

LightBox: Why did you choose the West Point area?

J.M.: I have been shooting in the West Point slum for a few days because that’s where I found the temporary isolation center, which was set up in a closed primary school originally built by USAID. I was able to gain access to that center, whereas the other larger facilities are more difficult to get into. West Point is extremely poor. People are living in extremely close quarters and conditions are so unsanitary; it’s a place where Ebola could really explode. I met a recognized and respected community organizer who has helped me operate in the area, with a level of safety I’ve felt comfortable with. I have also worked in other areas around Monrovia and in the countryside, and plan to do more of that during my trip.

LightBox: Is there routine to your work or is every day different?

J.M.: Every day is different. A couple days ago, I covered a mob scene. [On Sunday] I photographed at Doctors Without Borders’ new treatment center and then went out with a burial team when they collected a body from a home in a nearby village. Today [Monday], I’ll be going out with a Unicef team as they canvas door-to-door, educating people on ways they can keep from getting sick.

LightBox: You’re getting into homes, following health care workers and moving around—at least it seems—quite freely. The result, for us, has been among the most intimate photographs yet of this outbreak. Who is facilitating your access?

J.M.: I employ a fixer/driver from Monrovia, who has worked with journalists in the past, so he has a general idea of what I am interested in and contacts to find out what’s happening. In the case of West Point, I also worked with the community organizer. He knows, for instance, who is sick in the neighborhood, where deceased people are—and people trust him. He brought along a big friend, who accompanied us at certain points, to deter any potential threats.

LightBox: What is the general sense in the Liberian capital? Is there any normalcy or has fear permeated into all (or certain) facets of life?

J.M.: There is not a sense of panic here, which may be hard to believe from the outside. Although word has gotten out about ways to stay protected, there are a lot of people in denial about the epidemic. Many, especially in the slums, believe it is a hoax cooked up by the government in order to bring in international funds. In other words, a lot of people think it’s a conspiracy, and that patients are dying from common diseases here—like malaria. These attitudes are vexing, but are the result of years of corruption and the distrust that comes from that. That’s why proactive canvasing and education in these areas by both international and local NGOs is so important.

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
A burial team from the Liberian health department sprays disinfectant over the body of a woman suspected of dying of the Ebola virus on Aug. 14, 2014 in Monrovia. John Moore—Getty Images

LightBox: You shot a powerful photograph of burial workers entering the home of a woman who died to spray her body with disinfectant before being removed. You photographed her family members as well. What can you recall from that scene?

J.M.: A local journalist gave me the number of a burial team leader, whom I called. He told me they had just arrived to a location to retrieve the body of a woman who died of Ebola. [Bodies are usually tested and lab results checked before the team is dispatched]. I arrived, asked if I could suit up with them to go inside and they said yes. I spoke with some of the family members and told them how sorry I was and asked if I could take some photos to show the outside world what’s happening in Liberia, and they were fine with that. Some of the neighbors didn’t want their pictures taken and, of course, I respected that. We went inside the house where I stood in the hall and photographed as they sprayed the body with disinfectant, then put it in a bag and brought it out. I didn’t touch anything, other than the floor with high rubber boots on loan to me from my father-in-law. Afterwards, we each took a turn taking every piece of protective clothing off, all the while being sprayed with disinfectant.

LightBox: Can you talk about the holding center that was ransacked by a mob on Saturday? Health officials were also concerned that people suffering from Ebola had escaped that facility, which could mean the virus will spread.

J.M.: A burial team had come to remove four bodies from different houses in the neighborhood. The families of the deceased did not believe Ebola was to blame, as the bodies had not yet been tested. They rallied the neighborhood to drive out the burial team and its police escort. It was a demonstration that turned into a mob and the police had to fire warning shots into the air as they escaped the crowd, which was chanting “No Ebola in West Point.” The mob then moved down the street to the holding/isolation center and forced open the gates to the compound. The terrified patients inside watched from the front door as the crowd entered and told them to come out and join them, that they didn’t have Ebola at all and that the epidemic was not real. One from the crowd grabbed a girl from the front door and carried her out, and the rest of the family then followed. It was a horrific scene. I left shortly thereafter, as I felt it was time. I should stress that I was never physically threatened or harmed in any way. Later on, the mob reportedly looted the facility, including the soiled mattresses and medical equipment. If they didn’t have an Ebola epidemic in their community then, they most certainly do now.

Liberia Battles Spreading Ebola Epidemic
Ibrahim Fambulle, sick and weak, tries to stand as a corpse lies nearby in an Ebola ward on Aug. 15, 2014 in Monrovia. John Moore—Getty Images

LightBox: The content within your photos is already compelling, but the images shot in a blue room are particularly eye-grabbing. Can you explain what happened there—what did you see?

J.M.: Numerous people died in that classroom, one of them while I was there. Initially, people with symptoms and those without were confined together, but were later separated into different rooms. Several of the sick “escaped” the night before the mob overran it, as they were not receiving any medication, like aspirin, to help with their symptoms. Of those who left, two died in the community the next day. I am not sure where the additional patients are now, as some of them reportedly had been brought from other neighborhoods and would have gone home there. [At least 17 patients have since been found and transferred to a treatment center.]

LightBox: How are you finding the health care workers? Some three dozen have reportedly died in Liberia. Do you see proper precautions being taken?

J.M.: I have only worked with health care workers following careful procedures. Since most of the clinics and hospitals remain closed, many health care workers are not working now. Clearly they all need to be both trained and equipped with proper safety clothing before they come back to work. That’s a big task and time is not on anyone’s side here.

LightBox: Did you have any preconceived notions about this trip that either turned out to be false or skewed? Or has it been quite as you expected?

J.M.: I expected that there would be more panic than there is. And although this epidemic is extremely dangerous, it is killing fewer people than other diseases endemic to this region. The terrifying part is the mortality rate. Chances are, if you contract Ebola, you die – the death rate varies from 55-90 percent. I have worked in many risky places over my career and I always take precautions for my safety. Naturally, my family, friends, colleagues and editors all worry about my wellbeing, but that’s the case whether I am here or some of the other places I have worked this year –Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran – and the Mexican border in my home state of Texas.

LightBox: Is there something that the media is missing or overhyping about this story, in your opinion?

J.M.: An inherent problem with an epidemic is that if it not hyped by aid organizations, then it’s almost guaranteed to become a disaster. If it is hyped, then maybe it doesn’t kill as many people and some would think that the threat maybe wasn’t that real after all. I’d choose the latter.

LightBox: How do you envision your return to New York?

[I'm going to] miss a friend’s wedding a week after my return. I plan on coming back healthy, and people not showing symptoms cannot infect others, but what could be scarier at a wedding reception than a guest who recently hung out in an Ebola isolation ward?


John Moore is a staff photographer with Getty Images.

Andrew Katz is a homepage editor at TIME and reporter covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.com.


TIME Interview

Inside Gaza and Israel: Two Photographers, One War

As the death toll rises in the war between Israel and Hamas, TIME LightBox profiles two photographers who have spent weeks covering the opposing sides: Andrew Katz interviewed Oliver Weiken of European Pressphoto Agency and Olivier Laurent spoke with Getty Images’ Andrew Burton.


The main border crossing between Israel and Gaza is a long, open-air, fenced corridor that begins in a town called Erez. Since 2007, when the militant group Hamas took control of the coastal enclave half the size of New York City’s five boroughs, Israel has enforced a blockade. Its purpose: to block in Hamas, but it also seals off 1.8 million Palestinians who, in effect, have nowhere to hide when war comes.

For Oliver Weiken, a German photographer based in Tel Aviv, there was “no question” he intended to cover the battle from Gaza. It was just a matter of getting in. He was working the World Cup in Brazil when the fatal abductions of three Israeli teenagers led to an Israeli crackdown on the West Bank and Gaza, followed by an increase in rocket fire from Hamas. The revenge killing of a Palestinian youth exacerbated the situation, with the militant group escalating its attacks and Israel responding with a large-scale military offensive on July 8.

Five days later, Weiken, 30, made the long walk into Gaza, his third visit since the eight-day war in October 2012. “It gives you a bit of time to think about what you want to see, what you don’t want to see and what you probably will see,” he tells TIME. The walk felt familiar, but any similarities to his previous visits soon vanished.

After more than two weeks, Weiken, who stays in the Al Deira Hotel on Gaza’s coastline, has formed a bit of a routine. He doesn’t sleep much — he’s usually out the door by 6 a.m. for first light — and he’s constantly on alert. For the next few hours, he seeks out destruction that might have rained down overnight. After filing his morning batch, he aims for a nap in the afternoon and heads back out when the light is good again. Daytime attacks can end the routine quickly, however, resulting in sudden trips to hospitals, morgues or funerals.

“It’s really hard not to repeat yourself on a daily basis,” he says. That has become increasingly difficult as the security situation has become more precarious, forcing many photographers to travel in small packs. “At this stage of the war, nobody really ventures out alone anymore.”

 

Gaza Strip, Gaza City: My friend Oliver in Shujaya district during the ceasefire on July 26, 2014. ALESSIO ROMENZI
Oliver Weiken in Shejaiya, in east Gaza City, during a ceasefire on July 26, 2014. Alessio Romenzi

Access hasn’t been an issue, though, as most civilians recognize why he and the other journalists are there. And since hospitals and morgues are dealing with so many injuries or casualties, they’re too busy to check credentials. That was the case on the morning of July 20 when, at the Shifa Hospital morgue, he walked into a room with four bodies on the table and a doctor at the opposite end, wiping tears from his eyes. They were children, three victims of shrapnel and the fourth without a head — just some of the many bodies he saw on what would become the deadliest day yet, until that point, between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

Weiken made a picture but he didn’t linger. He doesn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy but realizes he needs to be there: “I try to be as invisible as possible, yet still be close and actually capture a moment.”

During a more stable cease-fire on July 26, he captured a broader scene in Shejaiya that showed the full wrath of Israeli strikes, then took a step back. “Everybody who photographed this general view was simply astonished, put the camera down and stood there for a minute or two to see this destruction,” he recalls, “because it really looks almost apocalyptic.”

He relies on photographers and writers on the ground for information, but also on the radio and social media like Twitter. The latter is not always reliable, he realizes, but it gives him a sense of what’s happening at that moment.

Many times that has meant witnessing horrific scenes. He avoids overly graphic pictures, reasoning there are more efficient ways of illustrating tragedy than by showing gruesome injuries, bloody gurneys or gory streets. “I think people can better relate and better understand by seeing, for instance, the emotions of relatives reacting to a tragedy,” he says. “Every once in a while, you have pictures of dead people, dead children, but I think you also have to do this in a delicate way,” he adds. “I don’t think a picture of a child with their head blown off will change anything, because people will look away.”

In the end, Weiken considers himself a documentarian. He goes out, photographs what he sees, then shows everyone else. “It is still, in many places in this world, about living or dying, and you need people who are there who can document that.” For his part, he’s not sure what will happen, or when. “I hope that this ends soon. But it’s already dragged out longer than I would have guessed.”

For Andrew Burton, a Getty Images staff photojournalist who just returned to the U.S. after covering the conflict from Israel for two weeks, the hope is that if he and his colleagues “cover this story long enough, eventually, there will be a solution.”

An American based in New York, Burton, 27, frequently shoots domestic assignments but has also covered the revolution in Egypt, the war in Afghanistan and he’s spent time in South Sudan. “[When the conflict started] I mentioned to my editor that I’d be interested in going,” he tells TIME. “I like to cover stories where there’s a narrative arc; where there’s the possibility of an ending. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for many decades, and I felt this was an important chapter in their story — hopefully one that would move them closer to peace.”

Two days later, his assignment was approved and he was on his way to Ashkelon, an Israeli town south of Tel Aviv and just 10 miles from Gaza. “The Israel Defense Forces doesn’t have an official embed program for journalists like the U.S. military does, so we spent a lot of time driving side roads alongside the border trying to find Israeli troops, to find images that told the story of what is going on.”

The work can be frustrating. “In a lot of cases,” he says, “we’d find a platoon of soldiers and they’d tell us not to take photos, so we’d have to leave.” But, in some cases, especially when Burton met with Israeli reservists, he was allowed to stay for as much as an hour. “From what I could tell, the reservists didn’t mind [being photographed as much as the standing Israeli military].”

Andrew Burton photographing Israeli soldiers responding to a missile siren near Kfar Aza, Israel, July 23, 2014. Albert Fishman Sadikov

“I was trying to find the photos that told the story,” he says. “The first week I was there, when the ground invasion had not yet happened, I’d shoot a lot of photos of tanks firing shells or of piles of shells [that had been used]. Once the ground invasion started, it was even tougher because the military locks down large areas of land, deeming them ‘closed military zones’, and you can’t physically get close enough to the border to actually show troops working inside Gaza.” There were also side stories to photograph, he explains, such as groups of Israelis who would watch the military operations from nearby hilltops, as well as Israeli soldiers’ funerals. “I tried to vary the coverage as much as possible, but there was an element of repetition.”

When Burton wasn’t shooting, he closely observed how Israelis behaved in war time: he was surprised to find a particular national mood that permeated all aspects of daily life in Israel. “I saw what you can expect to see when one country goes to war, which is a real national spirit,” he notes. “Many Israelis I met were very proud of protecting their homeland. There was a lot of symbolism, with many people flying Israeli flags on their cars, for example. That said, I also photographed multiple peace protests, where Israeli citizens strongly disagreed with their country’s actions and desired peace and reconciliation.”

And, as opposed to the U.S. where only a minority of the population has fought in a war, creating, over the years, what Burton calls “a disconnect between soldiers and civilians, in Israel, since [nearly] everyone has to serve in the military, there’s a much greater understanding of what it’s like to [defend your country]. There’s a better relationship between civilians and the military, and I picked up on that especially when I was working alongside other Israeli photographers.”

Burton is now back in the U.S., where he feels it’s important to reflect on what he saw and recorded. “When I’m on assignment, I try to have a thorough understanding of the implications of events I’m covering, but it’s hard to get a 30,000-feet view of what’s going on when you’re in it,” he says. “Compared to what’s going on in Gaza, it’s far less emotionally or spiritually taxing to cover this war from the Israeli side, but I still try to take time for myself to process everything.”

For Weiken, meanwhile, a time of reflection will come once the fighting has stopped. “The reconciliation with what you see in situations like this actually comes afterward, when the war is over and you have time to think about it.” That personal, internal reconciliation will likely start, Weiken believes, during the long walk back to Israel. “It’s cathartic.”


Oliver Weiken, a German photographer based in Tel Aviv, is represented by European Pressphoto Agency. Follow him on Twitter @OliverWeiken.

Andrew Burton, a Getty Images staff photojournalist, is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewBurton.

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

Andrew Katz is a homepage editor at TIME and reporter covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited Burton’s and Weiken’s images for this post, is an associate photo editor at TIME.com. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.


TIME Malaysia

See the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Crash Site in Ukraine From Space

Malaysia Airlines flight 17 crash site in Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014. DigitalGlobe/Getty Images

Satellite image released by DigitalGlobe shows a main impact site on July 20

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was traveling some 33,000 feet above eastern Ukraine on July 17 when it was struck by a surface-to-air missile believed to have been fired by Russia-backed separatists, resulting in the deaths of 283 passengers and 15 crew members from 12 nations. (Read about the lives lost in the tragedy.)

DigitalGlobe released this image on July 21, one day after its QuickBird satellite captured it. Debris from the plane, which had been traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was scattered over several square miles near the area of Grabovo. (For a closer look, see Jérôme Sessini’s photographs from immediately after the crash.)

President Barack Obama accused the separatists on Monday of removing evidence from the impact site following reports that bodies were not being properly released and international investigators were being blocked from the scene.

TIME Syria

Report Details Hardships Facing Syria’s Refugee Mothers

Syrian Refugees; Lebanon; North Lebanon; refugees
Sanaa, 26, washes clothes in a borrowed washing machine at a shelter in Saida, Lebanon, on March 4, 2014. Lynsey Addario—UNHCR

Some 145,000 refugee households are headed by women

A new U.N. report grimly details the daily plight of thousands of Syrian refugee mothers who have fled civil war and now toil as their household’s primary breadwinner.

Four-fifths of the 2.8 million Syrians who have fled their war-torn homeland since March 2011 are women and children, says the U.N., leading to some 145,000 refugee households headed solely by women. The survey, based on three months of interviews with 135 women in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, provides a snapshot of the complexities they endure while trying to feed and protect their children, find enough work to make rent and retain any semblance of the lives they enjoyed before war broke out.

They represent women who once managed their homes, even as their husbands usually handled physical and financial security, but who now lead households in unfamiliar and often insecure communities. Lebanon, a nation of 4 million, has taken in more than a million people. At least 600,000 have entered Jordan, with most gravitating toward urban areas, an influx that has crushed certain infrastructure. In addition, some 137,000 have made it to Egypt.

António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said “escaping their ruined homeland was only the first step in a journey of grinding hardship” and called their treatment “shameful” as the crisis worsens. “They have run out of money, face daily threats to their safety and are being treated as outcasts,” he added, “for no other crime than losing their men to a vicious war.”

Typically, their first challenge was simply finding a roof. Many make do with overcrowded or makeshift housing, due to few options and difficulties in securing a stable and sufficient income. Only one-fifth of those interviewed had paid work, and many others said they relied on cash assistance from aid groups or generosity from others in their community.

Paying rent is among their top stressors, as is feeding loved ones. With an average of 5.6 people per household, some mothers said their families ate less as a whole or individuals held back so others could eat more. “Rent is more important than food,” one woman who lived with her seven children in Amman told the U.N. “We don’t remember what meat or fruit tastes like,” echoed another, who kept a home of nine people in Giza, Egypt.

The vast majority of women interviewed relied on food vouchers from the U.N. World Food Programme, but very few complained that their households were going hungry.

Among a number of other issues reported were an inability to afford proper medical care, regular instances of verbal harassment and even offers of free accommodation in exchange for sexual favors. A significant portion said they left their homes much less often than they did in Syria.

The U.N. expects these problems to worsen, as it estimates the total number of Syrian refugees will reach 3.6 million by year’s end, unless aid agencies, donors and host governments renew their commitments of support.

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