Leftover Bomb Kills First Foreign Journalist in Gaza

Simone Camilli is just one of thousands slain every year by unexploded munitions.
(Photo: Simone Callini/Facebook)
Aug 13, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Vince Beiser has reported from more than two dozen countries for Wired, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and others. In 2014 he won the Media for Liberty Award.

A quartet of Palestinian police engineers set out to save lives in the embattled Gaza Strip today—but in the process they lost their own, along with those of two journalists.

The Associated Press reports that Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian AP video journalist, and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash “died when an unexploded missile believed to have been dropped in an Israeli airstrike blew up as Gaza police engineers were working to neutralize it.” Four of the engineers were also killed, and four other people were wounded. According to the AP, Camilli is the first foreign journalist killed in this latest conflict in Gaza, which has also claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

Camilli was reporting on the astonishing work of Gaza’s bomb squad, an outfit that works to defuse the hundreds of unexploded rockets, missiles, and bombs that have fallen on Gaza—a few from the Palestinian side but most from Israeli warplanes—before some unwitting civilian sets them off. The 70-member squad, according to a recent profile in The National, a regional newspaper, spends its days working on “unexploded artillery shells in bedrooms and hospitals, or multi-tonne bombs from military aircraft that have burrowed into fields and living rooms.” At least three members of the squad had already been killed before today’s explosion, the squad’s leader told The National; that’s in addition to the “tens” of children accidentally blown up since 2008 by the lethal leftovers of previous Gaza-Israel clashes.

Grim as those numbers are, they represent only a fraction of the 4,000 people killed or maimed each year by land mines and other explosives left behind by wars, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Land mines are fiendishly difficult to find, which helps explain why, despite many years of international efforts to eradicate them, the munitions are still found hiding in the dirt of some 60 countries around the world. One country particularly worth knowing about: Laos, where more than 100 people each year are hurt or killed by bombs that were dropped from American planes during the war in neighboring Vietnam. Journalists Jerry Redfern and Karen Coates have created this stunning time-lapse map showing where all those 2.5 million tons of bombs landed.