Former AP Videojournalist Yaniv Zohar Killed in Hamas Attack
Former AP Videojournalist Yaniv Zohar Killed in Hamas Attack

Tel Aviv, Israel - In a heartbreaking incident that sent shockwaves through the world of journalism, Yaniv Zohar, a former Associated Press videojournalist renowned for his three decades of reporting on conflicts and major news in Israel, met a tragic end during a violent incursion by Hamas on October 7. Alongside him, his wife and two daughters also lost their lives. Yaniv Zohar was 54 years old.

Zohar's illustrious career included 15 years of dedicated service at the AP's Israel bureau, spanning from 2005 to 2020. Throughout his tenure, he fearlessly covered all significant events in the nation. His expertise, however, lay in reporting the intermittent warfare unfolding just outside his home in the Nahal Oz kibbutz near the Gaza Strip border.

A dedicated journalist, Zohar frequently acted as the first responder, alerting the news desk to violence in the region and being the first on the scene. He played a pivotal role in covering the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and was the primary journalist present during the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit by Palestinian militants in the following year.

Julie Pace, AP's Executive Editor, paid tribute to Zohar's invaluable contributions, saying, "Yaniv was AP's eyes and ears in southern Israel, always among the first to respond to news in the busy region. He was a part of the community where he worked, giving him insights that were invaluable to his colleagues. When tensions rose in the Middle East, colleagues would quickly ask, 'What does Yaniv say?'" In recent years, Zohar transitioned to working as a photographer for the Israel Hayom daily newspaper.

A eulogy from the Israel Hayom newspaper described Zohar as "a wonderful friend, a devoted father, a man with heart and generosity." Despite the challenging scenes he often captured through his lens, he never wavered in his dedication to documenting the truth. Tragically, he met his end amidst one of the most devastating scenes, as over 2,000 Hamas militants infiltrated from Gaza, leading to the loss of more than 1,400 Israeli lives in the deadliest attack in the nation's 75-year history.

Yaniv Zohar and his family were on the frontlines during this massacre in their border kibbutz. He, along with his wife Yasmin, 49, and their two daughters, Tehelet, 20, and Keshet, 18, lost their lives. Fortunately, Zohar's 13-year-old son Ariel, who had gone for an early-morning jog, escaped unharmed.

Tragically, Yasmin's father, Haim Livne, was also among the casualties. Zohar was a towering figure, standing at 1.9 meters (6 feet 3 inches), yet his friends fondly remember him as modest, calm, quiet, and incredibly generous. Despite his fierce competitiveness, he was adored by fellow journalists covering the region. His home near the Gaza border often served as a base for other reporters arriving to cover breaking news.

"Heart as big as his body," said his close friend, photographer Yehuda Peretz. On Tuesday, an estimated 1,000 people gathered for Zohar's funeral in central Israel. The service, however, was repeatedly interrupted by air-raid sirens and incoming rocket fire from Gaza. The Israeli Iron Dome defense system could be seen intercepting rockets in the skies above.

In accordance with Jewish tradition, burials are typically held as soon as possible. However, it took 10 days before Zohar and his family could be laid to rest due to the overwhelming number of victims and the time-consuming DNA identification process.

Zohar's sister, Sivan, expressed her frustration at the constant air-raid sirens, which prevented mourners from completing their eulogies. "They won't even let us bury our dead," she said, her voice trembling. She likened the experience to a "second Holocaust" for her 89-year-old Holocaust survivor father.

Sivan shared that Zohar's son would be raised by her sister and that the family intended to proceed with his bar mitzvah ceremony in a month. "We will continue to celebrate life, and we won't let anyone destroy us. This is how we will avenge their deaths," she declared. She remembered her brother as a dedicated journalist whose images reached across the world, a man of peace who believed in coexistence.

Alon Bernstein, a veteran AP videojournalist, recounted their many visits to Zohar's home, where they would share a bottle of Jack Daniels. "Yaniv was a good friend and a real pro. We worked together overseas and all over the country, covering violence wherever it erupted," Bernstein said. "I have witnessed many atrocities in my long time as a news cameraman. None of them were as horrible as what happened to Yaniv and his family. It is too terrible for words."

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