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Delay doomed journalist shot by Israeli forces, Gazan official says

Ahmad Abu Hussein, 24, is the second Palestinian journalist to have been killed by Israeli forces while covering the 'Great March of Return'
Ahmad Abu Hussein is one of at least 40 Palestinians to have been killed by Israeli forces since 30 March

A Palestinian journalist who died on Wednesday “needed a miracle to save his life” after being shot by Israeli forces and made to wait two days to be transferred out of the Gaza Strip, health officials said.

Ahmad Abu Hussein succumbed to his wounds nearly two weeks after having been shot by Israeli forces while covering the “Great March of Return” in the besieged Gaza Strip.

A 24-year-old freelance photographer and correspondent for Al-Shaab radio station, Abu Hussein was shot in the abdomen with an expanding "dum-dum" bullet on 13 April east of the town of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, while standing several hundred meters away from the fence separating Gaza from Israel, according to witnesses.

He was transferred to the occupied West Bank for treatment in a Ramallah hospital two days later, only to be later admitted to Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel on 19 April. The ministry said the journalist died in Tel Hashomer.

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for Gaza's Ministry of Health, blamed Israel for delaying Abu Hussein’s transfer to the West Bank, saying it further endangered his life.

“He was supposed to be transferred to the hospital in Ramallah immediately, as his situation was very critical,” Qidra told Middle East Eye. “Unfortunately he was transferred two days after being injured, due to complications with Israeli security forces.”

Osama al-Najjar, spokesman for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health, told MEE that Abu Hussein “needed a miracle to save his life” by the time he arrived at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, adding that the journalist had parts of his pancreas and liver removed during surgery due to the damage inflicted by the dum-dum bullet.

Israeli authorities only authorised Abu Hussein's mother Rajaa to accompany her son to the hospital in Israel, denying a permit to his younger brother despite Rajaa being diabetic and in need of assistance, relatives said.

“Ahmad’s mother sensed three days ago that she would lose him,” Mohammed Abu Hussein, one of Ahmad's cousins, told MEE. “Every time we called to check up on her and Ahmad she was crying, refusing to leave Ahmed’s bedside.”

“Ahmad’s mother sensed three days ago that she would lose him” - Mohammed Abu Hussein, Ahmad's cousin

Abu Hussein is the second journalist to have been killed by Israeli forces since a wave of demonstrations known as the "Great March of Return" began in Gaza on 30 March.

The first, Yasser Murtaja, died on 6 April after being shot in the chest while wearing a flak jacket clearly marked "press".

The secretary-general for the Democratic Press Association in Gaza, Rami al-Sharafi, condemned Israeli forces’ targeting of journalists in Gaza.

“Ahmad was wearing a blue vest marked as press in fluorescent colour,” he told MEE. “All forces in the world know this vest is to avoid targeting journalists. But they [Israeli forces] have committed a crime against Yasser Murtaja, and today Ahmad Abu Hussein. This says that every journalist documenting the truth along the borderline [between Gaza and Israel] is an Israeli target.”

Abu Hussein is survived by his widowed mother, Rajaa, his 20-year-old sister Luna and his 16-year-old brother Diyaa, with whom he lived in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

His cousin Mohammed described Ahmad as a “great support to his family, and the only breadwinner for the past three years.”

Israeli forces have killed at least 40 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,000 others since 30 March, when Palestinians in Gaza began mass protests along the borderline with Israel, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health.

There have been no Israeli casualties.

Demonstrators in the besieged enclave, where almost 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees, are demanding their right to return to their pre-1948 homes that now lie in Israel.

The six-week protest, which began on 30 March marking Palestinian Land Day, is set to end on 15 May - the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), in which more than 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced by Israeli forces in 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the European Union have called for an independent investigation into the Israeli army’s actions in Gaza in recent weeks, raising questions over whether Israeli troops were engaged in "proportionate use of force", as they claim.

Human rights groups Adalah and Al Mezan petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday to order the Israeli army to stop using snipers and live ammunition in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has repeatedly rejected calls for an outside investigation.

Chloé Benoist contributed to this story.

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