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Palestinian photojournalist appeals for support to exit Gaza to accept award

Aug. 6, 2016 10:14 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 29, 2016 5:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Palestinian photojournalist Ashraf Abu Amra from the city of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip has appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate for assistance to travel to Moscow from the blockaded coastal enclave to accept an award.

Abu Amra won second place in the Top News category for the Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest, it was announced on Thursday.

More than 7,000 young photojournalists from 71 countries competed for the awards in different five categories.

Abu Amra was also a winner in the 2015 competition, but was unable to travel outside of the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli blockade of the territory.

The awards ceremony is scheduled to be held on Aug. 30.

“This award means a lot to me. Through my participation in the ceremony, I would be representing Palestine in a competition joined by the most outstanding journalists from all over the world. My goal is to raise the voice of Palestine in front of the whole world,” Amra told Ma’an on Saturday.

Abu Amra was awarded for a photo he captured in 2015 of bereaved Palestinian father Yahya Hassan, holding the body of his two-year-old daughter Rahaf during her funeral. Rahaf was killed by an Israeli airstrike in October.

(Photo: Ashraf Abu Amra)

Abu Amra’s appeal comes as Israel's military blockade of the Gaza Strip approaches nearly a decade.

The blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into poverty, while the destruction from three Israeli offensives over the past six years and slow reconstruction led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

While Egypt’s Rafah border crossing has remained the main lifeline for Gazans to the outside world, Egyptian authorities have slowly sealed off movement through the border since democratically-elected president Muhammad Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army in 2013.

Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many are commonly barred from leaving or entering the Gaza Strip, some for months at a time, as the crossing is only periodically opened by Egyptian authorities, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures.

In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. According to UN documentation, the crossing has been partially opened for 14 non-consecutive days since the beginning of 2016. Over 30,000 people are registered and waiting to cross, according to the Palestinian authorities in Gaza.

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