2013 World Press Photo of the Year, Gaza November 20 2012 (photo: Paul Hansen)
Judges for the 2013 World Press Photo Contest have awarded the Photo of the Year to Swedish photojournalist Paul Hansen for his photograph of a Gazan funeral procession taken during Operation Pillar of Cloud last November. The award is considered one of the most prestigious photojournalism honors in the world.
The procession was for Fouad Hijazi and his two children Sohaib, 2, and Muhamad, 4, killed by an Israeli airstrike November 19, 2012.
As the Palestine Center’s Yousef Munayyer notes, the backstory to this photo is chronicled in the latest Human Rights Watch report on alleged Israeli war crimes committed during the latest assault on Gaza. The human rights group notes that “field investigations of these attacks”–including the bombing of the Hijazi home– “found no evidence of Palestinian fighters, weaponry, or other apparent military objectives at the time of the attack. Individuals who deliberately order or take part in attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects are responsible for war crimes.” Here’s more from Human Rights Watch on the incident:
On November 19 at around 7:30 p.m., a single munition struck the house of the Hijazi family in Block 8 of the Jabalya refugee camp. The small, two-story cinderblock house was mostly demolished while 10 family members were inside. The strike killed Fouad Hijazi, a 46-year-old janitor at the Hamad secondary school, along with two of his children, Mohamed, 4, and Sohaib, 2. His wife, Amna, was wounded, as were three of their sons and a daughter.
One of the survivors, Nur Hijazi, 18, said that she was at home with her parents, four brothers and one sister when the attack took place:
Mohamed and Sohaib were with my father in another room. The rest of the family was in another room watching TV. At 7:30 I saw that the whole place turn red and suddenly the whole house collapsed on our heads. I found myself at my neighbor’s house and one of my neighbors took me to an ambulance. I was hospitalized for four days at Kamal Adwan Hospital. I have two broken bones in my spine. I don’t need surgery but I’m in a lot of pain. [Doctors said that] I must lie in bed for one month.
Human Rights Watch also saw three of Nur’s wounded brothers. Ashraf, 17, had cuts on his chest, upper arm and above the right eye. Osama, 13, had a bandage on his head that he said covered cuts. Musab, 2, had a cut on his head.
A video apparently of the Hijazi house after the strike shows workers removing the bodies of Fouad, Mohamed, and Sohaib.
The Hijazi house, inspected by Human Rights Watch on November 28, lay in ruins. The surrounding buildings in the densely packed area were only lightly damaged, except that there was slightly more substantial damage to one side of one adjacent house. The damage suggests that an Israeli aircraft dropped a bomb at the site. Human Rights Watch found no munition remnants at the site.
A neighbor who lives across a very narrow street – too small for a car – from the Hijazi home said he heard no shooting of rockets from the area at the time or at other times during the 8-day conflict. There were no other explosions in the area that night, he said. He and other local residents said they did not know or understand why the Hijazi family home had been hit, saying that the family had no connection to any of Gaza’s armed groups. One of Fouad’s other sons had been killed by an Israeli strike about five years earlier, one neighbor said, but he was a civilian who was killed accidentally.
The IDF did not make any announcements about specific strikes in Jabalya at the time. The Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center stated that the three victims were “non-involved” civilians.
This year’s Photo of the Year, taken by Paul Hansen, is a striking image of the bodies of two young children carried through the streets of Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike on their home, the photographer said. They are being taken to a mosque for burial, their father’s body carried on a stretcher behind them. Their mother was hospitalized.
The photograph humanizes what some may see as a politically charged situation.
But contest jury chair Santiago Lyon told CNN that there was no talk of it being controversial. Lyon is the vice president and director of photography for The Associated Press.
This year’s final round of judges were a global mix, Lyon said. There were three things jurors were looking for in a winning image — a photograph that reached the intellect, heart and stomach, he said. The Gaza City photo accomplished that, Lyon said.
“The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children,” said jury member Mayu Mohanna of Peru. “It’s a picture I will not forget.”
“This prize is the highest honor you can get in the profession,” Hansen told The Associated Press. “I’m very happy, but also very sad. The family lost two children and the mother is unconscious in a hospital.”
Hansen’s November 20 shot won top prize in both the spot news single photograph category and the overall competition…..The contest drew entries from professional press photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers across the world. In all, 103,481 images were submitted by 5,666 photographers from 124 countries.
Hansen will receive a €10,000 prize at ceremonies and the opening of the year’s exhibition April 25-27th in Amsterdam.
This is World Press Photo’s 56th Annual Photo Contest.