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Web documentary tells stories of Gaza‘s obliterated families


By EloÔse Bollack - July 17, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Gaza] [Operation Protective Edge] [Documentary] [photography]

In commemoration of the second anniversary of the latest Israeli offensive on Gaza, photojournalist Anne Paq - member of the photo collective Activestills - and reporter Ala Qandil released a multimedia web project on Friday, July 8, entitled Obliterated Families.

"The war finished, but its effects continue," notes Nabil Makhrous who lost his two kids, wife and eight other members of his family, as well as sustaining injuries himself -- his arm had to be amputated. "The[ir] memories are there," he added. "The house is like [a] cemetery, it's orphaned," says another bereaved father, Abdelhadi Majdalawi, "We can't sleep." [extract O.F]

According to U.N. count, 2,200 Palestinians were killed - including 500 children - during the 51-days Gaza war. 142 families have lost three or more members; some families were wiped out completely.

Behind those horrific numbers, there are heartbreaking stories. Obliterated Families offers a deep and intimate journey into the lives of those who survived the onslaught; it transcribes their loss, their pain, and their struggle for existence in the aftermath.

"Most of all, we want to ask the viewers to look past the statistics and empathize with the people whose stories we tell, to allow them to glimpse into the 'unnatural’ lives (in the words of one survivor) of people from the Gaza Strip," explained the journalists.

"A figure cannot tell you about the pain of the ones left behind and how people cope. It tells you nothing about the ones who are gone and their memories," added Anne Paq.

The pair met with 53 families from different parts of the Gaza Strip before, during and after the war. Two years of hard work involving more than 80 professionals and volunteers allowed this project to succeed. "This work is independent, and we did not have significant funding. Amazing talented people were still willing to contribute in so many ways because we all believed in the importance of the project," told Paq.

Through photos, reportage text, animations, infographics, short videos, and design elements, O.F. offers the in-depth stories of ten families. So far, five stories have been published on the website; the remainder are scheduled to post online corresponding to the anniversary of each attack on the related family.

"We had to make a difficult choice; we could not tell 53 in-depth stories. It was based on different criteria; we wanted to make sure that all the main areas of the Gaza Strip were represented. Five are families whom I documented during the attack--Khalili, Shuheibar, Al-Najjar, Maadi, Kilani. How could I forget the moments where I saw these families being torn apart?" confided Paq.

On July 21, 2014, eleven siblings from the Al Kilani family were killed in the bombing of a residential tower where they were seeking shelter. Ibrahim Al Kilani (53), originally from Beit Lahya in the northern Gaza Strip, lived for twenty years in Germany where he married and worked as an architect. In 2002, he decided to return to his homeland after his wedding broke down. He remarried again and had five children.

 Photo of the children of Ibrahim and Taghreed Kilani.  Ibrahim’s family, including his five children and his wife, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Al Salam Tower in Gaza City. The Kilanis took refuge there after Israeli planes dropped leaflets instructing the residents of Beit Lahiya to go to the Gaza City. Ibrahim and his children were German citizens.

Photo of the children of Ibrahim and Taghreed Kilani. Ibrahim’s family, including his five children and his wife, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Al Salam Tower in Gaza City. The Kilanis took refuge there after Israeli planes dropped leaflets instructing the residents of Beit Lahiya to go to the Gaza City. Ibrahim and his children were German citizens.

“Ibrahim was known in Gaza for being a great architect. Many well-off Gazans from the Diaspora hired him to design and build their houses so they have a nice place to live once they return here,” explained Saleh, one of Ibrahim's brother.

Ibrahim and all his children were German citizens; nevertheless Germany has never voiced any protest against the killing of its citizens nor have his two children in Germany, Ramsi and Layla, ever received official condolences from the government.

The realization of the documentary has opened a door for one of the families for them to begin their struggle for justice. Anne Paq has assisted the Shuheibar family to report to human rights NGOs that components manufactured in France were found in bombs that killed three of their children - and seriously wounded two more. Military experts hired by French human rights NGO ACAT confirmed that the piece was produced by a French company Eurofarad, later acquired by Exxelia Group.

On June 29, Ancile Avocats and ACAT, on the behalf of the Shuheibars family, submitted a two-pronged complaint to French prosecutor accusing Exxelia of complicity in manslaughter and war crimes. This is the first time that a Palestinian family has attempted to file a complaint against a private company in France, and possibly in Europe, for such case.

ACAT denounces "the blatant impunity for war crimes committed in Gaza" and has launched a "call for accountability of the military industry." According to the plaintiffs, "no military targets were prescribed" for the attack of July 17 against the Shuheibar house.

Survivor Basel Shuheibar (10), just two months after the drone strike, which left three of his cousins dead.  The drone strike left him with serious head, arm and hand injuries as well as trauma.

Survivor Basel Shuheibar (10), just two months after the drone strike, which left three of his cousins dead.  The drone strike left him with serious head, arm and hand injuries as well as trauma.

"Exposure and awareness raising is not enough. The question of justice is crucial. If there is no justice for the crimes that were committed, then Israel continues to enjoy total impunity, and has a green light to launch another deadly offensive against the Gaza Strip," concluded Paq.

Caption header photo: From left, Wassim (9), Afnan (8) and Jihad (10) Shuheibar. The three Shuheibar children were killed July 17, 2014 by a missile fired from an Israeli drone, while playing on the roof of the family home. The small black piece in the center was part of the missile that killed the three children. It was produced in France. In June 2016, the Shuheibar family filed a complaint against the French manufacturer for complicity in war crimes.

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