An image taken from a video shot by Saleh Abu-Shamsiyah, 10, documents Israeli soldiers raiding his house. (Lorenzo Tugnoli)
Emad abu-Shamsiyah had just sat down for coffee with his wife Fayza and one of his daughters when they heard gunshots. That morning in March, Abu-Shamsiyah captured a video, now evidence at the center of a trial that has divided a nation.
The video shows then-19-year-old Sgt. Elor Azaria, an Israeli army medic, shooting and killing Abdul Fattah al-Sharif, who lay unarmed and wounded. As Ruth Eglash of The Washington Post reported, the incident happened shortly after Al-Sharif and a friend, Ramzi al-Qasrawi, attacked Israeli troops and wounded one soldier. Israeli forces shot both of the men, killing Al-Qasrawi immediately.
“When they heard the gunshots, they all knew what to expect,” freelance photographer Lorenzo Tugnoli wrote. “They darted out the door. Fayza picked up the video camera, scrambling to cover her head, and passed it to her husband as they ran.”
Tugnoli’s project, “Evidence,” explores the daily life of the Abu-Shamsiyah family and the story behind their decision to document the violence around them as their own form of peaceful resistance. Tugnoli writes about the day in March:
“Emad climbed onto his neighbor’s roof and kept filming: ambulances at the scene maneuvering around the bodies to park. A soldier is tended to on a stretcher. Nobody is paying much attention to the young men lying on the floor. One of them is still moving. A soldier cocks his gun, walks toward him, and shoots him in the head.
“The camera shakes. Emad breathes heavily while he zooms in on the dead body of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif.”
On Wednesday, Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter. Eglash reported:
“Judge, Col. Maya Heller, said the video submitted to the court was authentic and rejected the claim that shooting the suspect had been necessary, calling it ‘needless.’
“The incident took place in one of the most tense settings in the occupied West Bank — a military checkpoint that protects 850 of Israel’s most ideological Jewish settlers, who live in the heart of old Hebron surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians.
“It came during a wave of stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and troops. And would likely have slipped away quietly except for the video, filmed by a Palestinian volunteer from the Israeli human rights organization Btselem and distributed to the press.”
Emad abu-Shamsiyah waits outside a police station in the settlement of Kyriat Arba to file a complaint after receiving death threats in August. Abu-Shamsiyah is a caretaker by day and films incidents in his neighborhood by night. (Lorenzo Tugnoli)
Abu-Shamsiyah and his family first moved to the Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron in 2009, Tugnoli told The Post. The family collaborates with the Human Rights Defenders and B’tselem to document incidents near their house. “I think Emad believes that taking videos can help to eventually change the situation around him or to give justice to the victims,” he said. Tugnoli wrote:
“His first videos show IDF soldiers raiding his home and arresting his sons, and settlers attacking his house. Emad soon began documenting incidents in the area and uploading the videos on YouTube or sending them to human rights organizations.
“I think there are two different layers to the project. … As a photographer, I share the instinct of using the camera in situations that scare. … On another level, I was intrigued by the contrast between the apparently normal life of this family and the dire conditions that they endure and how the conflict made its way into their everyday life. … They have been witness to gruesome incidents just [a] few meters from their house and targets of numerous attacks by settlers, but they are always cheerful and positive about the future.”
Warning: The post contains graphic photos.
Bab al Zawiya checkpoint in central Hebron, one of the main access points from the old city into the restricted area of Tel Rumeida and Shuhada streets. Residents navigate through a maze of checkpoints that are often targets of attacks and demonstrations, and endure tensions between the most extreme factions from both sides. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Emad abu-Shamsiya films as two soldiers question his friend and fellow activist Badee Dwaik on the street in front of his house. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) An image taken from a video shot by Emad abu-Shamsiyah shows the arrest of a Palestinian man by the Israeli Defense Forces. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Emad abu-Shamsiyah films Israeli Defense Forces in front of his house. “The first attack from settlers happened two months after we moved to this house in 2009,” Abu-Shamsiyah told Tugnoli. “I decided to go to the Israeli police to make a complaint. They asked me if I had some photos as proof of what happened, and I didn’t. So from that time on, I decided to start using a camera. In the beginning, I was only focusing on taking videos of the attacks to my home,” he said. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) An image taken from the video shot by Emad abu-Shamsiyah shows Abdul Fattah al-Sharif after he was shot in the head. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Death threats sent to Emad abu-Shamsiyah over Facebook in April, not long after he captured the death of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif in March. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Emad abu-Shamsiyah’s daughter Madlene helps her family pack their bags before leaving their house after receiving multiple death threats. According to Tugnoli, on Aug. 25, the family received one from the Jewish Defense League, a Jewish far-right political organization known for its attacks. That night the family decided to stay in a safe location for some days at the suggestion of B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) An image taken from a video shot by Emad abu-Shamsiyah shows a raid on his house by Israeli Defense Forces. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Saleh abu-Shamsiyah plays with his mom. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Children play outside Emad abu-Shamsiyah’s home in central Hebron. The house has been in the family for generations but had been empty for almost a decade before the family moved in 2009, when Tel Rumeida was much more peaceful than it is now. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Fayza abu-Shamsiyah stands near the entrance of her house as settlers walk by. The Israeli Defense Forces temporarily banned the family from reaching the street and cut the family off from the city except for a narrow back way through roofs and landfills. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Emad abu-Shamsiyah’s daughter Marwa, 13, watches TV in their home while her older sister Madlene puts on a face mask. Marwa has witnessed much violence and has had nightmares and bed-wetting. Her conditions improved recently after she received psychological support from Doctors Without Borders. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Emad abu-Shamsiyah’s 17-year-old son, Auni, has his left foot X-rayed after an incident in 2015 when he was shot in the foot. He underwent three surgeries and still needs one more. Auni has been arrested several times, serving two to 10 days in detention before being released without charges. He was injured by live ammunition several times. His family recently decided it was time for him to move to a safer city because he had stopped going to school after constant harassment at checkpoints. He now works with his uncle as a mechanic in Azarya, Israel, and comes back to Hebron mostly to go to the hospital for follow-up on his foot. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) An image taken from a video shot by Emad abu-Shamsiyah shows the arrest of his son Auni. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Emad abu-Shamsiyah’s son Saleh plays on the street in front of his house. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) A soldier checks Emad abu-Shamsiyah’s ID at a checkpoint near his house. The checkpoint is closed each time there is an incident in the city and is often at the center of the violence. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Bab al Zawiya checkpoint in central Hebron. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Muhammad Kayed Thalji al-Rajabi, 15, bleeds to death at Gilbert checkpoint minutes after being shot by Israeli Defense Forces after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) Soldiers celebrate the end of their rotation at the Gilbert checkpoint. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) A soldier waves an Israeli flag on the roof of Abu-Shamsiyah’s family home. (Lorenzo Tugnoli) The Abu-Shamsiyah family and their neighbors wait at the entrance of their house for the road to be reopened. (Lorenzo Tugnoli)