'Clearly he was peaceful': Cameraman who filmed man with white flag shot dead in Gaza speaks out

Filmmaker Mohammed Abu Safia (top left), Ramzi Abu Sahloul bottom left and Mohammed's footage (right). Credit: ITV News

The cameraman who captured the moment a man was shot dead in Gaza while waving a white flag in an incident that prompted international outrage, has spoken of the moment the man was killed "in front of his eyes" to ITV News.

Mohammed Abu Safia, a filmmaker and producer who has been employed by ITV News to cover the war in Gaza, filmed father of 14 Ramzi Abu Sahloul and a group of men waving a white flag on January 22 after an evacuation order had been issued in downtown Khan Younis.

The footage he filmed around Mr Abu Sahloul's death prompted members of the UK parliament to accuse Israel of committing a "war crime".

Mr Abu Safia explained to ITV News it was Mr Abu Sahloul's family who had urged him to publish the footage of that day.

"This was one fact I was asked by his sons to report. They asked me to publish the whole footage," Mr Abu Safia said.

"When I interviewed them I sensed they were still under shock," he added.

"All I see is death, destruction, shelling, diseases"

Camera operator Mr Abu Safia's life has changed massively since the onset of full-blown conflict between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

"Before the war I used to wake up in the morning, ride my bike to the beach, have my coffee there, swim and get back by 7:30. My work starts at nine, I go to work, be back at home by 2pm to see my wife and my children, we have our lunch and I may go to see my friends, play cards."

Mohammed Abu Safia is the filmmaker and producer was working in Al-Mawasi when he saw a man holding a white flag get shot. Credit: ITV News

Now his days are very different.

"I go out at 6am, get back at 8pm, sometimes later at 10pm or 11pm. All I see is death, destruction, shelling, diseases, people complaining, starvation, lack of food. I see so many hardships and hear more sad stories, it makes it hard for me to sleep.

"I stay awake till 1am or 2am unable to sleep. I try hard to relax. But what I have seen keeps me up for days. This is very difficult and so hard for me to bear with."

"I sensed I shouldn’t be where these civilians were"

On January 22 Mr Abu Safia had been documenting the experience of pregnant women and premature babies in the area, when he saw plumes of heavy black smoke and civilians fleeing.

"I was on the exit of Al-Aqsa University when a man spoke English to me," Mr Abu Safia said, explaining that as he was working for a Western news outlet he decided to interview the man.

A few metres away he saw a group of men, one of whom was raising a white flag.

"I approached them slowly, I was cautious. I reviewed the map to see if it was a safe place where I was or not. I didn’t want to put myself in any danger," Mr Abu Safia explained.

"I sensed I shouldn’t be where these civilians were," he added.

One of the civilians explained he and his family had been forced out of their homes by the IDF the previous day.

He said he was waiting at the closest point to the IDF trying to tell them there were still civilians trapped in the house he had come from, as they were unable to follow evacuation orders.

"It was a direct shot to his heart"

Military vehicles circled nearby as Mr Abu Safia spoke to the man, and he noticed a laser beam coming from the gun of a nearby sniper.

"I heard a sniper’s gun fire. That was the only fire noise. I stopped recording, and I was wondering if I was in danger or if it was a warning firing," he said.

"I realised then the man was shot."

Mr Abu Safia stopped recording for around five seconds after hearing the gunfire, but decided he needed to document what was happening, so began recording again.

"I approached slowly to see what happened to the man. I saw how the man was shot in his heart. His sons came to him to take him. They tried to carry him, we were fired at again," he said.

"It happened at 3.14pm. They were peaceful, raising a white flag, all of them raising their IDs. That man was raising his hands. When I approached him to interview him his hands were up. Clearly he was peaceful. I don’t know why he was targeted."

"I wasn’t scared because in my mind I thought it was a safe place. It wasn’t a place where we were asked to evacuate," he added.

Rishi Sunak and the US were quizzed over an ITV News video which shows a civilian being shot dead while in a group carrying a white flag in Gaza, many say this shows a 'war crime,' John Irvine and Robert Moore report

This video contains distressing images

"If they wanted us to leave they should've aimed in the air to warn us and make us leave. They didn’t do that. The man was shot before my eyes. They tried to save him but couldn’t. It was a direct shot to his heart."

Mr Abu Safia continued to record what was happening on his camera.

"I didn’t know what I should do, should I run away or keep documenting?" he said. He didn't feel he was able to help the victim as he did not have any medical training.

The group briefly took cover in Al-Aqsa University and created a makeshift stretcher from a door. They then carried the man to a bus as they were unable to call for an ambulance and he was taken to a hospital.

"They were still under shock"

Mr Abu Safia wanted to find out more about what he had seen that afternoon.

"I tried to find the man’s family. I kept looking for them for the whole day until I found them. It was clear how much this man was loved by his people," he said.

He interviewed his son Khaled, who was with his father when he was shot. He said the family had called the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) the night before the incident to report Israeli tanks were on their doorstep and there were people who could not follow the evacuation orders.

The son of the man who was shot dead while holding a white flag in Gaza has spoken to ITV News after the fatal attack, as Senior Correspondent John Irvine reports

Mr Abu Safia switched off after the interview, and didn't communicate with anyone for the rest of the day.

"I shared the footage with ITV News. I only communicated with them to share with them more details like his name and his story, and then I turned off my phone to ease my stress from what I witnessed. And here I am," he said.

"It was a crime. It happened that I was there to document that crime. It was in Al-Mawasi, it was supposed to be a safe place," he said.

So many people die everyday who have nothing to do with the war, Mr Abu Safia said, and he has seen many horrific scenes in his time working as a cameraman in Gaza.

"One of the most difficult things I’ve witnessed is when someone dies before seeing the light. When a pregnant mother is killed and her foetus dies before seeing light. And the premature deliveries because of the polluted air in displacement or because of mothers’ undernourishment.

"It is a bad, difficult, scary, horrifying situation for the Palestinian people," he added.

More than 26,000 Palestinians have now been killed in the conflict, the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said on Friday, and more than 64,000 people have been wounded.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Friday Israel must take all measures within its power to prevent genocide in Gaza, but fell short of demanding a ceasefire as requested in South Africa's original complaint.

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