What does daily life look like in a place where occupation and the effects of war are a constant?
Find out for yourself with this weekly view from the ground in Gaza. Each week, Palestinian photographer Mohammed Zaanoun offers a unique insight into life in the coastal enclave that he and around two million other Palestinians call home.
Starting in the early hours of 9 May, five days of Israeli bombing killed a reported 33 Palestinians in Gaza – including 12 civilians – while rocket fire from the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad killed two people inside Israel.
While a ceasefire is now in place, regular flare-ups of conflict with Israel mean that many Gazans are trapped in a cycle of war and reconstruction, and poverty rates are extremely high. Israel has blockaded the territory since 2007 because it is controlled by the political and militant group Hamas, and most people in Gaza are forced to rely on some sort of aid.
Check back with “Snapshots” to see all of Zaanoun’s photos, and to listen to him explain why they matter, as The New Humanitarian looks to keep the spotlight on people in Gaza.
Comments have been condensed for length and clarity.
Week of 2 July 2023
Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza again this week, in response to rocket fire from Palestinian militant groups in the strip. This came as Israel was ending a two-day military operation in the Jenin refugee camp – one of the largest and deadliest of such incursions in the occupied West Bank in years. Twelve Palestinians were reportedly killed, including four children, and residents who were forced to flee have returned to ruined homes, and to a camp without either electricity or clean water.
Zaanoun took his camera out before the violence, turning his lens to murals of Arabic calligraphy that a Palestinian artist has painted on the ruins of homes destroyed by the Israeli bombing in May.
As he puts it, the murals turn rubble into art “through paintings that express love and peace”.
Week of 11 June 2023
A Gaza woman announced this week that she had recently given birth to quadruplets, reportedly conceived via artificial insemination using sperm smuggled out of the Israeli prison where her husband, Ahmad Shamali, is serving an 18-year term.
Zaanoun visited the four newborns after they were brought back into Gaza. Their mother, Rasmiya, gave birth last month in a Jerusalem hospital.
There are nearly 5,000 Palestinian “security” prisoners in Israeli jails, and they are not allowed conjugal visits. More than 100 children are believed to have been conceived using smuggled sperm since the first known successful pregnancy of this kind in 2012. Some consider these inseminations to be an act of resistance against Israeli occupation.
Week of 4 June 2023
It’s not always about the war, or the humanitarian crisis. A heatwave sent many Gazans to the beach this week, and Zaanoun was there to photograph the summer fun.
Gaza’s beach provides a free escape for residents of the densely packed Gaza City, especially given the fact that the territory has a serious shortage of electricity. Frequent power cuts drive people outside, and to the seaside, seeking respite from the sweltering summers.
Week of 28 May 2023
Three weeks after the ceasefire in Gaza, UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees, is holding its annual pledging conference in New York, asking donor countries to contribute to its $1.63 million appeal for 2023.
The agency, which provides various types of aid — including education, health, and camp services — to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and Gaza, has long been in financial trouble. Speaking on 1 June, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said the agency is going through a “massive financial crisis”, adding that while this “sounds almost like a broken record… the crisis is real.”
Back in Gaza, Zaanoun meets a family who are struggling to get by, with the father eking out some money transporting goods from a local market using his donkey. Most of the time, it’s not enough to get enough food or clean water.
Week of 14 May 2023
A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad came into effect on the evening of 13 May, but residents of Gaza are still picking up the pieces after five days of violence.
According to the Ministry of Public Works in Gaza, airstrikes by the Israeli army damaged nearly 3,000 homes in Gaza. That includes 140 homes that were “severely damaged,” and 103 that were completely destroyed.
For this week’s Snapshots, Zaanoun visits a family that has been left homeless by the bombing and is taking shelter near the ruins of their destroyed home.
Edited by Ciara Lee and Annie Slemrod.