It’s one of the most emotionally affecting photos to come out of Gaza in recent weeks: Two men are holding a premature infant resting on a blanket many times her size, hospital bracelets still cuffing her wrist and ankle. She’s surrounded by a crowd, many of them journalists pointing cameras, and everyone leans in. The photo appeared on social-media networks this week, and captions varied but kept a similar tone: the youngest casualty of the war in Gaza, a baby saved from her dead mother’s womb after the latter was hit by an Israeli airstrike.
For Gazan freelance photographer Samar Abu Elouf, the grief of Operation Protective Edge is nothing new. The 30-year-old has been photographing Palestinian life and death in Gaza for five years, including Israel’s last incursion during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense. She says the child in the photo above, taken Monday, was named Shaima, after her 23-year-old mother. A baby with that name, born under the circumstances Abu Elouf describes, reportedly died on Wednesday.
Like many images released from the region, Abu Elouf’s work is part documentary, part politics, focusing exclusively on destruction caused by the Israeli operation. Frequently, her subjects are children and youths, many of whom, she adds, have lost parents or relatives in the conflict and have “extreme fear” in their eyes.
The work is dangerous. Abu Elouf covers neighborhoods undergoing heavy shelling, and sometimes travels on foot. The other day her colleague Rami Rayan was killed in an airstrike on Gazan marketplace, but Abu Elouf persists.
“I consider the photographer to be a warrior in the war,” she wrote in an email to Daily Intelligencer. “He must play the role of a journalist to tell the truth.”
Abu Elouf’s photographs are just one perspective of the multifacted reality of the Israel-Gaza conflict. Below, some more of her photographs taken since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. The captions are hers.