An Italian journalist, three Palestinian bomb disposal experts and two other people were killed in Gaza on Wednesday when unexploded munitions blew up, medical officials and police said.
The explosion occurred in Beit Lahiya, a town in the northern Gaza Strip that had been the scene of fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters during Operation Protective Edge.
The three-day cease-fire that was in effect since Monday has given Palestinians an opportunity to search for unexploded munitions.
Gaza’s police force said it was mourning the deaths of its three men: the head of the local bomb squad, his deputy and another officer, killed when an IDF shell detonated.
Italy’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, offered the government’s condolences to the family of journalist Simone Camilli and said his death underlined the urgency of finding a lasting solution to conflict in the Middle East.
“Once again, a journalist pays the price for a war that has gone on for too long, and for the second time in a few months we weep for the death of someone who was courageously working as a reporter,” Mogherini said in a statement.
The Associated Press said Camilli, a video journalist, had worked for the US news agency since 2005.
Long-time colleague Diaa Hadid, a reporter who has covered stories across the Middle East, posted an AP article on Camilli’s death on Wednesday on her Facebook wall, saying, “Simone in the present tense, warm, funny, lovely, never remembering your lighter, bumming cigarettes, talking about a story, you had such a fun news sense, the clowns entertaining Syrian refugees, the lone electrician making sense of a crowded Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, bitching about work, remembering some crazy incident that would make your eyes light up and laugh.
You are present tense Simone, truncated here, to Wednesday August 13.”
Israeli journalist Matti Friedman, a former colleague of Camilli’s at the AP, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, “Terrible news from Gaza.
Simone was a beautiful guy, a pleasure to work with, and his loss is such a tragic waste.
My prayers for his partner and daughter and for the family of translator Ali Abu Afash. And hopes for the swift recovery of photographer Hatem Moussa from the AP’s Gaza office.”
The Italian Foreign Ministry referred to Camilli’s death as a tragedy for his family and his country, according to the Telegraph.
This latest incident brings the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to 1,956 since the start of Operation Protective Edge.
“The police engineering unit tried to remove an unexploded ordnance from a residential area when an explosion shook the neighborhood,” an eyewitness told Maariv Hashavua.
Ambulances were summoned to the scene, and the wounded – many of them in serious condition – were rushed to the hospital.
Ben Hartman and Maariv Hashavua’s Yasser Okbi contributed to this report.