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L.A. Times photographer reflects on covering the Israel-Hamas conflict 

By Carolyn Cole

Covering the Israel-Hamas conflict these last three weeks, I’ve seen the destruction of entire neighborhoods, bombed beyond recognition. I’ve attended the funerals of whole families killed when their homes were hit in nighttime bombings. I’ve seen mosques reduced to rubble, and enough hospital casualties to give anyone nightmares.

The number of dead and wounded civilians, especially children, that I’ve seen in 21 days is as high, if not higher, than in any other conflict I’ve covered. At times there were so many coming into the emergency rooms, there weren’t enough beds. And the morgues were overflowing.

Funerals were held in haste, with groups of men carrying bodies to the mosque for prayers before heading straight to the cemetery. In normal times, the deceased are taken to the family home for visitation, but often there was no home left to visit or the homes were in areas far too dangerous to venture into.

Unable to cross from one side of the front line to another, I was limited in what I could photograph.  In years past, when newspaper budgets were bigger, there would have been two L.A. Times photographers there, one covering each side of the conflict.

It was impossible to get photographs of Hamas fighters, who are constantly tracked by Israeli drones, so remain underground. I did photograph a mortally wounded Hamas fighter, despite warnings not to from Palestinian security.  And I was close enough to the firing of two Kassam rockets to know they are often detonated (launched?) remotely, and highly deadly if they misfire.

On my final day in Gaza, with a 72-hour cease-fire in effect, I decided to go to the beach, the same beach where three weeks earlier four children had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. There I found groups of men gathered around fishing boats straightening their nets, waiting for the right time to cast. And I found a young boy collecting small fish from those same nets, stuffing them into a plastic soda bottle.  In only a matter of hours, small signs of life had started to return to the Gaza Strip.

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