The harrowing story behind the World Press Photo of the year

(AP Photo/Paul Hansen, Dagens Nyheter)

(Paul Hansen, Dagens Nyheter -- Associated Press)

World Press Photo has announced the recipient of its annual news photography award: Paul Hansen of the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. He won for this image of Palestinian men carrying the bodies of two small children, who had been killed during the fighting that broke out in Gaza between Hamas and Israeli forces.

The two children are Suhaib Hijazi, a two-year-old girl, and Mohamed Hijazi, her four-year-old brother. The men carrying them are their uncles; their father's body is visible in the photo's background.

“The strength of the pictures lies in the way it contrasts the anger and sorrow of the adults with the innocence of the children,” Peruvian jury member Mayu Mohanna told the Associated Press. “It’s a picture I will not forget.”

Human Rights Watch released a lengthy report this week investigating damage and loss of life in Gaza that it says appear to have been caused by Israeli air strikes. The report, as Yousef Munayyer of the Palestine Center pointed out, includes a section on the Hijazi children. Here's what it says:

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 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.

Also on WorldViews

Tehran's own TEDx event gives the city a rare reprieve from isolation