Mohammed Asaad dives in the sea off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, on Oct. 15, 2020. Mohammed Asaad, a Palestinian cameraman from the blockaded coastal enclave, dives in the Mediterranean off Gaza coast with his camera to document its beauty and depth. (Photo by Yasser Qudih/Xinhua)
by Sanaa Kamal
GAZA, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Mohammed Asaad, a Palestinian cameraman from the blockaded coastal enclave, dives in the Mediterranean off Gaza coast with his camera to document its beauty and depth.
In the past, the 37-year-old man used to cover political developments in the Gaza Strip, just as many other journalists of the enclave.
Covering everything from tensions between Israel and Hamas that controls the Strip, as well as such events as weekly protests known as the "Great March of Return" which has been launched since 2018, he said it badly impacted his psychological health.
Determined to overcome his fears and to forget the images and videos he had taken, Asaad has finally decided to make a shift and started looking for stories with a positive angle.
The problem was that he didn't find them in the Strip that has seen poverty and destruction.
"So, I decided to find positive energy in the tough stories that I was covering," he said, adding that he finally found what he was looking for when he produced a story about "spearfishing in Gaza."
"The only thing that I wanted was to focus public's attention on how the Palestinians can deal with their unstable situation and keep their families afloat, despite the Israeli blockade," he explained.
To achieve that, he left the eastern part of the Strip and moved to the western part, next to the Gaza sea, in search of tranquility.
But there was another obstacle. At that time, Israel prevented Gaza's fishermen from fishing over three nautical miles as a pressure tool on the Palestinians to put an end to their weekly protests.
However, some fishermen resorted to primitive spearfishing methods to challenge Israel's maritime restrictions imposed on them.
"It was a great story that I wanted to focus on, but I didn't have any experience in diving," Asaad said, adding that he began to learn diving skills from amateur fishermen.
It seemed like an adventure. At first, he felt fear because he dived with three other fishers by using simple tools. But with time, his worries faded away step by step and he could concentrate more on the sea world's beauty.
"There were many flocks of fish, which looked like tribes living with us," he explained, adding that he wished to stay more time under water to discover that depth even further.
Since then, he decided to document the underwater world off Gaza to let Palestinians, as well as other people around the world, to see the beauty of the region.
To continue his passion, the young man has been learning underwater shooting methods through online videos. In addition, he contacted professionals who taught him necessary techniques and methods.
The cameraman observes weather forecasts on a daily basis, watching the sea waves, to choose suitable days for his shoots.
Still, Asaad faces many difficulties, including water pollution and limited filming and diving equipment that only allows him to reach the depth of up to six meters below water.
In addition to reducing fishing areas, Israel also banned the entry of diving equipment into the Gaza Strip since it imposed a blockade on the seaside territory after Hamas movement's fighters seized control of the enclave in 2007.
Under the Oslo peace agreement signed between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993, Palestinian fishers were allowed to fish in an area of 20 nautical miles (37 km). Yet, this area has been reduced over time due to the military tensions in Gaza.
Recently, the cameraman launched his own YouTube channel to post his documentaries with a detailed explanation of the types of fish and their habits, as well as how to cook them.
He hopes that he will receive more training in the arts of underwater photography and that he will be able to produce more documentaries that reflect the aquatic and coastal life of the besieged area. Enditem