TIME Israel

Netanyahu Tells World Leaders ‘Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas’

Prime Minister also refutes Palestinian leader's accusations of "genocide" in Gaza Strip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back Monday against Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ claims that Israel was waging a “genocide” against Palestinians, and called on world leaders to treat Palestinian militant group Hamas as indistinct from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Netanyahu refuted claims by Abbas and others that his military had committed war crimes during the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip this summer, citing the lengths to which the Israeli Defense Force went to warn civilians to evacuate targeted areas.

“Israel dropped fliers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic, all to allow civilians to evacuate targeted areas,” Netanyahu said, arguing that Israel took all available precautions to protect civilian lives, while Hamas deliberately fired rockets from areas where children live and play. “Israel was using its missiles to protect its children, Hamas was using children to protect its missiles,” he added.

He said that the fact that Hamas’s deliberate placement of rockets in civilian communities were the “real war crimes.”

The Israeli Prime Minister also spoke about the growing “cancer” of militant Islam, comparing the situation in Israel with that in Iraq and Syria. “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” he said. “When it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas. And what they share in common, all militant Islamists share in common.”

The conflict, which ended in August, left 2,100 Palestinians dead and 73 Israelis dead, according to the BBC. The UN said that most of the Palestinian dead were civilians. “This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment,” Abbas said last week.

Netanyahu said criticism in Europe of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians often amounts to thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. “We hear mobs today in Europe call for the gassing of Jews, we hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis,” he said. “This is not a function of Israel’s policy, this is a function of diseased minds. That disease has a name, it’s called anti-Semitism, and it’s spreading in polite society.”

The president also warned that Iran was undergoing a “manipulative charm offensive” in order to lift sanctions and continue with plans to build a nuclear weapon. “It’s one thing to confront militant Islamists on pickup trucks… its another thing to confront militant Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “Would you let ISIS enrich uranium? Then you shouldn’t let the Islamic state of Iran do them either.”

A UN Council tasked with negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program has not made much progress in recent weeks, according to the LA Times. They hope to reach an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program to non-military uses in exchange for lifting oil sanctions.

Netanyahu urged the world’s leaders not to trust what he called the “world’s most dangerous regime.” “To say Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees,” he said.

TIME conflict

Mandatory Palestine: What It Was and Why It Matters

"Mandated territories granted England include: Tanganyika Territory (formerly part of German East Africa), Mesopotamia and Palestine," wrote TIME in a brief news bit in 1923—a fleeting mention of a decision that would change the face of the Middle East as we know it

TIME

The map above is from a 1929 TIME article titled “Islam vs. Israel”—even though, as the map makes clear, in 1929 there was no country called Israel. (On a desktop, roll over to zoom; on a mobile device, click.)

Instead, there was Mandatory Palestine. The idea of a mandatory nation, using the common definition of the word, is an odd one: a country that’s obligatory, something that can’t be missed without fear of consequence. But the entity known as “Mandatory Palestine” existed for more than two decades—and, despite its strange-sounding name, had geopolitical consequences that can still be felt today.

The word “mandatory,” in this case, refers not to necessity but to the fact that a mandate caused it to exist. That document, the British Mandate for Palestine, was drawn up in 1920 and came into effect on this day in 1923, Sept. 29. Issued by the League of Nations, the Mandate formalized British rule over parts of the Levant (the region that comprises countries to the east of the Mediterranean), as part of the League’s goal of administrating the region’s formerly Ottoman nations “until such time as they are able to stand alone.” The Mandate also gave Britain the responsibility for creating a Jewish national homeland in the region.

The Mandate did not itself redraw borders—following the end of World War I, the European and regional powers had divvied up the former Ottoman Empire, with Britain acquiring what were then known as Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and Palestine (modern day Israel, Palestine and Jordan)—nor did it by any means prompt the drive to build a Jewish state in Palestine. Zionism, the movement to create a Jewish homeland, had emerged in the late 19th century, though it wasn’t exclusively focused on a homeland in Palestine. (Uganda was one of several alternatives proposed over the years.) In 1917, years before the Mandate was issued, the British government had formalized its support for a Jewish state in a public letter from Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour known as the Balfour Declaration.

But by endorsing British control of the region with specific conditions, the League of Nations did help lay the groundwork for the modern Jewish state—and for the tensions between Jews and Arabs in the region that would persist for decades more. Though Israel would not exist for years to come, Jewish migrants flowed from Europe to Mandatory Palestine and formal Jewish institutions began to take shape amid a sometimes violent push to finalize the creation of a Jewish state. Meanwhile, the growing Jewish population exacerbated tensions with the Arab community and fueled conflicting Arab nationalist movements.

TIME reported on some of the tensions in the 1929 article from which the map above is drawn:

The fighting that began between Jews and Arabs at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall (TIME, Aug. 26) spread last week throughout Palestine, then inflamed fierce tribesmen of the Moslem countries which face the Holy Land (see map)…

…Sporadic clashes continuing at Haifa, Hebron and in Jerusalem itself, rolled up an estimated total of 196 dead for all Palestine. A known total of 305 wounded lay in hospitals. Speeding from England in a battleship the British High Commissioner to Palestine, handsome, brusque Sir John Chancellor, landed at Haifa, hurried to Jerusalem and sought to calm the general alarm by announcing that His Majesty’s Government were rushing more troops by sea from Malta and by land from Egypt, would soon control the situation

The clashes in Mandatory Palestine, which at times targeted the British or forced British intervention, began to take a toll on U.K. support for the Mandate. As early as 1929, some newspapers were declaring “Let Us Get Out of Palestine,” as TIME reported in the article on Jewish-Arab tensions. Though the Mandate persisted through World War II, support in war-weary Britain withered further. The U.K. granted Jordan independence in 1946 and declared that it would terminate its Mandate in Palestine on May 14, 1948. It left the “Question of Palestine” to the newly formed United Nations, which drafted a Plan of Partition that was approved by the U.N. General Assembly—but rejected by most of the Arab world—on Nov. 27, 1947.

As the day of May 14 came to an end, so did Mandatory Palestine. The region was far from settled, but the Mandate did accomplish at least one of its stated goals. Mere hours earlier, a new document had been issued: the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

Read a 1930 cover story about the Zionist movement during the period of Mandatory Palestine: Religion: Zionists

TIME Gaza

The Hardest First Day: Gaza Kids Return to School

Watch as two teenagers brought TIME along on their first day of school after seven weeks of war

About half a million Gaza children returned to school two weeks ago, after a summer of war. But the restart has faced many challenges including supply shortages, limited facilities and widespread trauma among students and faculty alike, according to a UN report.

As teachers read attendance sheets on the opening day last week, their roll call also served as an account of the dead. 500 children were killed in Gaza during the 50 days of fighting, according to UN figures.

“Many of our friends were not in school,” Khetam Kafarna, a 17 year-old shelter resident, said after her first day of classes in Beit Hanoun. “Some have moved. Some of the girls died. Now we are all strangers to each other.”

The summer months brought seven weeks of fighting between Israel and militants in Gaza – over 2,100 Palestinians were killed, and over 100,000 Gazans were left homeless. Seventy-one Israelis were also killed in the fighting, 66 of them soldiers.

During the bloody summer months, schools in Gaza became a focal point of the violence and destruction throughout the region. Twenty-two schools were completely destroyed during the conflict and at least 118 more damaged. Gaza’s schools—already stressed before the war, with classes running in double shifts as a result of school shortages—are now facing acute overcrowding, the UN said.

In southern Israel, where local children were subject to frequent scares from rocket sirens throughout the summer, classes started on time but with a changed curriculum that would include activities to provide emotional support to students, according to the Israeli Education Ministry.

The bombing of school-shelters has become one of the most controversial aspects of the entire conflict. Israel said in at least some of these cases that they were responding to nearby rocket fire or targeting militants in the area. The military is reviewing some of the incidents. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said that Hamas used “schools, residential buildings, mosques and hospitals to fire rockets at Israeli civilians.”

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) “unreservedly condemned” the attacks and has also called for investigations. In three cases, however, UNRWA did discover and publicly condemn the use of its Gaza facilities by militants to store rockets.

Meanwhile, students in Gaza returned after a three-week delay to find schoolhouses with walls bombed to rubble, chalkboards ripped apart by artillery shells and the remains of books and school supplies littered in charred piles.

There are many wounds to heal. Children in Gaza have experienced three wars between Israel and Hamas in just the past six years. At the UNRWA schools, which serve 241,000 students across Gaza, the first week was completely devoted to psycho-social counseling and support. Students participate in supervised activities like drawing and storytelling, and are monitored for further therapeutic needs.

“It’s important that we continue to move forward, and to bring back a sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Iyad Zaqout, who manages the UNRWA community mental health program in Gaza. “This is the best way that we can overcome the scars of war.”

On opening day last week in the courtyard of one UNRWA school in Gaza City, hundreds of girls gathered in matching pinstriped dresses and jeans. They danced and giggled and held hands and sang. But pupils and teachers around Gaza have also found themselves at a loss for space for classes. Over 90 UNRWA schools were converted into shelters during the war, housing up to 290,000 people displaced by the violence.

In one school-turned-shelter in Gaza City, dozens of temporary residents gathered with brooms and rags in the courtyard of to help clean the well-worn facility. Other residents complained of a lack of water in the shelters. There are still over 50,000 Gazans sheltered in UNRWA schools throughout the territory, the agency said. Across Gaza, colorful laundry still draped the light blue railings of UN schools, and old desks had been stacked with curtains used to turn classrooms into cavernous homes reminiscent of childhood fortresses. Families slept out on the open-air walkways at night to keep cool.

Alaa Eliwa, an 8th grader from the Shaaf area east of Gaza City, lost her home and all of her belongings in an airstrike. She had been living for weeks with her family on the barren 3rd floor of a UN school building in Gaza City. Eliwa said she was excited to start school, counting drawing, reading and writing among her hobbies. Alaa had risen before dawn on Sept. 19 to travel across the city, where she would start classes in another UN school building.

“It’s also good that we can leave these classrooms where we live, instead of staying here all day long,” she said. “School provides us with some change.”

TIME Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Vows to Fight Growing Anti-Semitism

"It pains me when I hear that young Jewish parents ask whether they should raise their children in Germany"

With attacks against Jews on the increase in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Sunday to step up the battle against anti-Semitism.

Speaking at a rally in the capital Berlin, she said Germany would do all it could to stop the growth of anti-Semitism, which has risen since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, reports the BBC.

“It pains me when I hear that young Jewish parents ask whether they should raise their children in Germany, or elderly Jews who ask if it was right to stay. With this rally, we are making it unmistakably clear: Jewish life belongs to us. It is part of our identity and culture,” she said to a crowd of about 5,000 people.

Germany is home to about 200,000 Jews.

The rally, organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, comes 75 years after the beginning of World War II, says the BBC. Six million Jews were killed during the conflict.

“The legitimate criticism of the political actions of a government — be it ours or of the state of Israel’s — is fine,” Merkel said. “But if it is only used as a cloak for one’s hatred against other people, hatred for Jewish people, then it is a misuse of our basic rights of freedom of opinion and assembly.”

Since the start of the recent conflict in Gaza, tensions between Muslim and Jewish communities have flared up across Europe. There were 131 anti-Semitic incidents reported in Germany in July, up from 53 in June, Reuters reports the German government as saying.

TIME Syria

Syrian Rebels, Government Clash in Golan Heights

Mideast Israel Palestinians
U.N. soldiers observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point near the border with Syria on Sept. 1, 2014 Sebastian Scheiner—AP

Syria's state news agency says the military killed "many terrorists"

(BEIRUT) — Syrian rebels clashed with government troops on Monday in the Golan Heights, where al-Qaida-linked insurgents abducted U.N. peacekeepers last week, activists said.

The fighting was focused around the town of Hamidiyeh in Quneitra province near the disputed frontier with Israel, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides but did not have exact figures.

Syria’s state news agency said the military killed “many terrorists” and destroyed a heavy machine gun in the fighting. The government refers to those trying to oust President Bashar Assad as terrorists.

Heavy clashes have raged in the area since Syrian rebels captured a border crossing near the abandoned town of Quneitra on Wednesday. One day later, fighters from al-Qaida’s Syria branch, the Nusra Front, abducted 45 Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded two Filipino contingents serving in the U.N. mission that monitors the buffer zone between Israel and Syria.

The Filipino troops escaped over the weekend, while the Fijians are still being held by the Nusra Front. The United Nations says that it is seeking the Fijians’ immediate and unconditional release. It says it has not established where the peacekeepers are being held.

Fiji’s military commander said Tuesday that the Nusra Front has issued three demands for the release of the Fijian peacekeepers.

Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the Nusra Front wants to be taken off the U.N. terrorist list, wants humanitarian aid delivered to parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, and wants compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with U.N. officers Tikoitoga said the U.N. has sent hostage negotiators to Syria.

The rebels’ targeting of the U.N. mission has touched off criticism among some nations contributing troops to the peacekeeping force about how the Golan Heights operation functions.

Ireland, which contributes a 130-member armored rapid response unit to the U.N. mission, warned Monday it would not replace its troops next month if U.N. leaders in New York do not agree on strengthening the force’s firepower, command and control, and rules of engagement.

“I’ve made it very clear that I’m not going to continue to commit Irish troops to this mission unless there’s a very fundamental review of how it’s going to operate. Clearly this is no longer a demilitarized zone,” Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney told RTE state radio in Dublin.

“We need to get a significant reassurance from the U.N., and the Syrian side, that we can operate a mission safely. The risk levels, given what’s happened over the last three days, are not acceptable.”

He said Irish troops in armored vehicles exchanged fire with rebels Saturday as they rescued Filipino troops from one of the besieged border posts. The Indian-led, 1,250-member force includes soldiers from Fiji, India, Nepal, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

Coveney said the Irish unit remained on standby for a potential rescue of the seized Fijian troops. Ireland’s current military deployment has been in the Golan Heights since March and is supposed to be replaced by other Irish soldiers next month.

An Irish withdrawal could deal a final blow to the U.N. mission, which has already seen Austria and Croatia pull their forces last year over fears they would be targeted. The Philippines, meanwhile, has said it would bring home its peacekeepers after their tour of duty ends in October.

The group that abducted the peacekeepers, the Nusra Front, published a statement online on Sunday that included photos showing what it said were the captured Fijians, along with 45 identification cards. The group said the men were “in a safe place and in good health.”

The statement mentioned no demands or conditions for the peacekeepers’ release.

The Nusra Front accused the U.N. of doing nothing to help the Syrian people since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. It said the Fijians were seized in retaliation for the U.N.’s ignoring “the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood in Syria” and even colluding with Assad’s army “to facilitate its movement to strike the vulnerable Muslims” through a buffer zone in the Golan Heights.

The group is one of the two most powerful extremist factions fighting in Syria’s civil war, which the U.N. says has killed more than 190,000 people. However, the Nusra Front has been eclipsed by the Islamic State group, which broke away from al-Qaida earlier this year and has since carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

Human Rights Watch said Monday that it has credible evidence that the Islamic State group has used ground-fired cluster munitions in at least one place in northern Syria. These weapons explode in the air, releasing hundreds of tiny bomblets. Those that fail to explode pose a long-lasting danger to civilians.

The New York-based rights group said that reports from local Kurdish officials as well as photographs indicate the extremists fired cluster munitions on July 12 and Aug. 14 during clashes with Kurdish forces around Ayn Arab near the Turkish border. Five people were killed in the attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

It was no clear how Islamic State fighters had acquired the weapons, the group said.

The Syrian government has used at least 249 cluster munitions since mid-2012, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Any use of cluster munitions deserves condemnation, but the best response is for all nations to join the treaty banning them and work collectively to rid the world of these weapons,” said HRW’s Steve Goose.

TIME Israel

Israel Claims Almost 1,000 Acres of West Bank for New Settlement

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sebastian Scheiner—AP

Decision reportedly taken after the June abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers

Israel declared a large section of the West Bank as “state lands” on Sunday, in a move that caused outrage among Palestinian authorities.

The Los Angeles Times, citing local media sources, reported that the Israeli government took over 990 acres in the Palestinian territory south of Bethlehem.

This declaration is the largest since 1980, according to antisettlement group Peace Now, which said it would have a significant impact on the region.

Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer wrote in a Facebook post that the appropriation of land was a “stab in the back” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Oppenheimer added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “destroying any diplomatic horizon.”

Abbas’ office warned that the Israeli attempt to encroach upon Palestinian land would further escalate the conflict between the two sides, and called for the declaration to be withdrawn.

The Israeli government reportedly wants to keep the part of the West Bank it calls the Etzion Bloc in any future agreements with the Palestinians, and Peace Now reports that the lands have been earmarked for the expansion of the settlement of Gevaot there.

Settlement leaders sought to justify the annexation of the land, which was reportedly decided by the government after the June abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers. Yigal Dilmoni, of the umbrella settlement group called the Yesha Council, said it was “an appropriate Zionist response to terror attacks against Israel.”

Hanan Ashrawi, of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, responded that Israel is moving toward a “de facto one-state solution,” and aims to “wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land.”

[LAT]

TIME Middle East

Israel-Gaza Talks Collapse as Fighting Resumes Where It Left Off

Destruction is seen from the bathroom of a Palestinian apartment in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanun, on August 18, 2014.
Destruction is seen from the bathroom of a Palestinian apartment in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanun, on August 18, 2014. Thomas Coex—AFP/Getty Images

Renewed rocket fire from the Gaza strip was met with Israeli airstrikes Tuesday, as Egypt negotiations were called off

Hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza resumed and peace negotiations in Cairo were called off Tuesday, with Israeli negotiators called home to Jerusalem hours before an already prolonged cease-fire was due to expire.

Militants in Gaza launched three rockets in the direction of the Israeli city of Beersheba at close to 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday afternoon, Israel Defense Forces reported. They fell in open areas and no one was injured. But the very fact of even a trio of rockets being launched tested the doctrine that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials had reiterated in recent days: that Israel would not negotiate under fire, and would not accept even a “drizzle” of rocket fire from Hamas and its allies in Gaza.

“If Hamas thinks that through the continued drizzle of rocket fire it will force us to make concessions, it’s mistaken,” Netanyahu warned on Sunday. The metaphor of this drizzle – or tif-toof as it’s referred to in Hebrew – has become the new catch-phrase being used in Israel to embody a zero-tolerance policy to rockets. Tens of thousands of Israelis, including residents of the southern parts of Israel who have often been subjected to rocket fire even when there isn’t a full-scale conflict going on, protested in Tel Aviv last Thursday night, demanding a more definitive solution to the problem.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett, said after the renewed fire Tuesday that it was impossible to negotiate with Hamas. “When you hold negotiations with a terror organization, you get more terror,” he said. “Hamas thinks that firing rockets helps in securing achievement in negotiations, therefore it is firing at Israel even during a cease-fire. Rockets are not a mistake [for Hamas], they are a method.”

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, accused Israel of dragging out the talks and of not being serious about reaching an agreement. “Israel’s foot-dragging proves it has no will to reach a truce deal,” Abu Zuhri said. “The Palestinian factions are ready to all possibilities,” he added, presaging the likelihood of a return to further conflict.

He also said that he had “no information about rocket fire coming from Gaza,” making it unclear as to which group actually launched the rockets. There are smaller militant groups than Hamas operating in Gaza; the largest of them, Islamic Jihad, has a delegation attending the talks in Cairo.

The return to hostilities is hardly the outcome everyone was waiting for as negotiators neared the end of their deadline for reaching a deal to bring a brutal and bloody summer of fighting to an end. Only a day earlier, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations meeting in Cairo were reported to be very close to reaching an agreement, as the nearly week-long ceasefire was extended for another 24 hours.

However, there were still large gaps on key issues. Hamas has demanded a complete lifting of the closure on the Gaza Strip, as well as permission to build an international seaport in Gaza. Israel has said it will not allow Hamas to use looser restrictions to rearm or to rebuild tunnels into Israel.

After the three initial rockets, further rocket salvoes on southern Israel were reported Tuesday afternoon. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF Spokesperson said that the IDF “will continue striking terror infrastructure, pursuing terrorists, and eliminating terror capabilities in the Gaza Strip, in order to restore security for the State of Israel.”

TIME Middle East

Poll: 92% of Israeli Jews Say Operation Protection Edge Was Justified

Talks resume in Cairo, as fresh 3-day truce holds in Gaza
A general view of a Merkava tanks near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, 11 August 2014. Abir Sultan—EPA

A poll of Israeli public opinion in the aftermath of the ground invasion of Gaza finds overwhelming approval of the military operation among Israeli Jews.

A total of 92% of Israeli Jews agreed that Operation Protective Edge was justified, according to the monthly Peace Index poll published Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think-tank, and Tel Aviv University. The survey found that even amongst self-described left-leaning Israeli Jews, 67% thought the operation was justified.

But Jewish Israelis weren’t so unified on the question of whether the Israel Defense Forces used the appropriate amount of firepower in its operation. While 48% thought the amount was just right, some 45% think too little firepower was used. 6% felt the IDF used too much.

Published two weeks after Israel announced the withdrawal of all ground troops in Operation Protective Edge from Gaza on Aug. 5, the poll found that just 13% of Israeli Arabs believed the government had achieved most or all of its goals, compared with 44% of Israeli Jews.

As Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet to discuss a cease-fire the real question is whether peace will be brought to the troubled region. Sadly 71% of Israeli Jews thought chances were low that Operation Protective Edge would lead to three or more years of quiet from Gaza. Amongst Israeli Arabs the figure was 49%.

 

TIME Gaza

Remembering Videographer Simone Camilli: Watch One of His Final Projects

Simone Camilli
Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli on a balcony overlooking smoke from Israeli Strikes in Gaza City. Camilli, 35, was killed in an ordnance explosion in the Gaza Strip, on Aug. 13, 2014 together with Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash and three members of the Gaza police. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

The video journalist was killed, along with a Palestinian translator, on Wednesday as they were reporting on the conflict in Gaza

Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian journalist, was killed Wednesday in an ordnance explosion while reporting from the Gaza strip.

Camilli started his career in 2005 in Rome, as an intern with the Associated Press.

“He was a sponge,” said Derl McCrudden, head of international video news for the Associated Press. “He was one of those guys who learned everything he could about the job.”

One of his first assignments was to portray the world’s sorrow at the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Maria Grazia Murru, currently a senior producer with the AP in Rome, remembers Camilli at the start of his career. “He was passionate about wanting to tell people’s stories and wanted to be where the story was all the time,” she said. “He wanted to learn everything and be the first, he was never happy waiting for images to happen.”

In 2006, Camilli moved to Jerusalem. From that moment on, he grew accustomed to rockets flying overhead, as he embarked on assignments in Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon and other areas of conflict. Camilli immersed himself in wartime reporting, vividly capturing with his camera both moments of sorrow and joy, colleagues said.

“His video had a signature, an incredible eye for detail and was able to personalize stories and portray human drama,” said Tomislav Skaro, a regional editor of international video for the AP. “He was incredibly calm, mature beyond his age, gentle and the friend that everybody wants to have.”

Camilli’s father, Pierluigi Camilli, said his son loved his work. The senior Camilli is a former journalist himself who currently serves as the mayor of Pitigliano, a small town in Italy, whose nickname is “little Jerusalem.”

“I talked with Simone the other day,” Pierluigi Camilli told Italian media. “I told him to be careful but he said not to worry (…) I’m proud of Simone. He had his work in his blood.” Camilli always wanted to be on the front lines, his father added.

In one of his last multimedia projects, Camilli worked with AP photographer Dan Balilty on a compelling piece depicting the 2009 Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Watch the piece below:

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