Gaza conflict: Journalist Simone Camilli among 6 killed after Gaza bomb disposal goes wrong
72-hour ceasefire set to end at midnight local time if no agreement reached
An Associated Press video journalist and a freelance Palestinian translator working with him were killed Wednesday when ordnance left over from Israeli-Hamas fighting exploded as they were reporting on the aftermath of the war in the Gaza Strip.
Simone Camilli and Ali Shehda Abu Afash died when an unexploded bomb believed to have been dropped in an Israeli airstrike blew up as Gazan police engineers were working to neutralize it in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.
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Moussa told a colleague that they were filming the scene when an initial explosion went off. He said he was hit by shrapnel and began to run away when there was a second explosion. The blast knocked him unconscious and he woke up in a hospital. Moussa was later placed into surgery.
Camilli, an Italian national, had worked for The Associated Press since 2005, when he was hired in Rome. He relocated to Jerusalem in 2006, and often covered assignments in Gaza. In recent months, he had been based in Beirut, returning to Gaza after the war broke out last month.
He leaves behind a longtime partner and a 3-year-old daughter in Beirut, as well as his father, Pier Luigi, in Italy.
Hamas police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji said there had clearly been a 'mistake' and there would be an investigation. He said the Palestinians collect unexploded munitions but usually get help from international experts in disposing of them.
"We never deal with these things alone," he said, adding that police believe only a small fraction of unexploded bombs from the recent fighting have been recovered.
A welcome face in Gaza
Camilli is the first foreign journalist killed in the Gaza conflict, which took more than 1,900 Palestinian lives and 67 on the Israeli side.
[Camilli] was my brother. I have known him for almost 10 years. He was so happy to be with me working in Gaza.- Najib Jobainm Associated Press chief producer in Gaza
Abu Afash, a 36-year-old Gaza resident, leaves behind a wife and two daughters, ages five and six. He often worked with the international media as a translator and news assistant.
Najib Jobain, the AP's chief producer in Gaza, said Camilli was a welcome face in Gaza who loved the story so much that he recently turned down an assignment in Iraq to come to the seaside strip.
"He was my brother. I have known him for almost 10 years. He was so happy to be with me working in Gaza," Jobain said. "He was asked, 'Do you want to go to Erbil or Gaza?' He said, 'I'll go to Gaza.'"
Diaa Hadid, a longtime colleague, said she arrived with Camilli in Jerusalem in 2006 and they became close friends. She described him as a "warm, lovely, funny, chain-smoking guy who could never find his own damned lighter, always up for a story and adventure kind of guy."
"To think he is not here is really just too much," she said.
Meanwhile, with the 72-hour ceasefire set to end at midnight local time, Palestinian negotiators were mulling over an Egyptian proposal to end the month-long Israel-Hamas war.
Since the truce went into effect Sunday, Israel has halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets.
The ceasefire was meant to give the two sides time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and a road map for the coastal territory.
A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said Wednesday that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled on Tuesday. Egyptian mediators have been were ferrying between the Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts in an attempt overcome the differences between the sides.
The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas's demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.
The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it.
"We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed," he said.
The Palestinian officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations with the media. An Israeli government spokesman had no comment on the negotiations.
Obama speaks with Israeli PM
U.S. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has been consulting by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes says that Obama talked to Netanyahu Wednesday from his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.
Rhodes says the White House will provide a fuller readout of the Netanyahu call later in the day.
With files from Reuters