Gabriel Chaim: “The day I saw life passing before my eyes” describing the last battles against ISIS near Baghuz

“The day I saw my life passing before my eyes,” is how photojournalist Gabriel Chaim recalls the day that an ISIS-fired rocket almost killed him and colleagues during the last battles against ISIS in Baghuz.

The following account is from a post by Chaim on February 24. 

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Battles took place near the town of Baghuz on the Euphrates river

February 13, 2019

The day started with a heavy fog. There were CNN crew and I at the rooftop of a three floors house. An ISIS counterattack had just begun, shots of heavy weapons were crossing the air above our heads (being low was the only choice) the ISIS drone began to fly and, with no one to see, a bomb fell within two meters of us. Some SDF soldiers began to flee from the frontlines, as rumors that ISIS was advancing, so a YPG special unit came to contain any breakthrough of ISIS, including a Kurdish commander, Haval B, which I was embedded up to 4 months (we created a strong friendship).

At that moment, I started following some other commanders towards the front line (with me was Gabriele Micalizzi). We stopped at a point where there were clashes and airstrikes ongoing, then after an hour we started advancing to a house where Haval B was. I remember when Haval B saw me coming he started to scream – Gabriel, Gabriel you came. (He was happy)

We went up to him on the rooftop with some other commanders. I introduced Gabriele to Haval B and he started taking pictures of him – at that moment everything was quite, the counterattack seemed over – everyone were stand at the roof.
Gabriele and Haval B shifted to a position behind me and I went ahead. I remember having the camera turned on and I saw the red light of my microphone on (it means the battery was running out). I sat down to change the battery at an old chair.

I took out the old battery then when I was putting the new one…I saw a fire and very loud noise passing right in front of my eyes, about 40 centimeters (very close) and a second later the explosion happened with a strong blast (threw me away)
The missile hit the head of a YPG fighter, and the shrapnels Haval B and Gabriele, about a meter and half of me

I’ll never forget…it was February 11, 2019 (10:35 am) Baghuz, Syria.

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