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Gaza Photog Tells Violent story
Brattleboro Reformer (Vermont)



BRATTLEBORO -- Mohammed Omer was walking home from classes at Islamic University in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.

He was searched by an Israeli soldier, which was a usual occurrence for him.

When he began to get closer to his house in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, he started to wonder if something was wrong.

Soon he realized his home had been destroyed by Israeli bulldozers, his family narrowly escaped and his mother injured in the process.

Omer, a 22-year-old journalist and photographer, spoke to a crowd of about 30 people at the Centre Congregational Church on Main Street on Wednesday night.

He is currently on a multi-city speaking tour in the United States, sponsored by one of the magazines he regularly contributes to, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Omer relied on a presentation of his photography and two videos to give those who attended a look into the violent occupation of Gaza.

Omer has worked as a freelance journalist for newspapers, magazines and radio stations around the world as a correspondent in the place where he was born and raised, Gaza.

Omer said growing up, he wanted to be a translator. He worked in factories until 16 when he ended up getting his wish and translating.

"Life forced me to be a journalist," he said.

Omer won an award recently for his article, "Sharon, Why Did You Destroy My House?," which appeared in the Washington Report.

The article describes the result of "Operation Rainbow," a 2004 Israeli military operation to destroy homes and infrastructure in Rafah.

"The ceaseless din of explosions and gunfire couldn't drown out the human chorus of despair -- children crying for a piece of bread, fo a cup of milk, for a cup of water, the laments of parents who had nothing to give them, the wails of the newly widowed and orphaned, the screams of the dying and dismembered," wrote Omer in the article.

Omer began his presentation with a gripping, violent video he had shot of Palestinians being shot and bombed by Israeli occupation forces.

The clip started with a mass of people marching to demand a break in the violence so they could get some much needed food and water. Soon blasts and gunfire could be heard, then injured and dead civilians were shown being carried by others into ambulances and taxis to get medical attention. The images were shocking to those at the speech.

"They kept them under siege for 17 days," said Omer.

Then he presented photo after photo of a desperate way of living -- shots of children dead in the street, a close-up shot of an emotional woman as she watched her house get crushed and his own brother, who was shot by an Israeli sniper in the street as he walked to school.

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