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How an AP photographer made this image of Israeli soldiers taking a selfie at the Gaza border

Israeli female soldiers pose for a photo on a position on the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israeli female soldiers pose for a photo on a position on the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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Tsafrir Abayov has been covering the border between Israel and Gaza for 20 years.

When he saw a group of female soldiers taking a selfie from the high vantage point, not the usual tanks in position, he knew he had a photo.

Here, he shares how he made the extraordinary image.

Why this photo

I grew up in Ashkelon, about 10 km (6 miles) north of Gaza, and I’ve been covering the Israel-Gaza border for almost 20 years, so I know this border from end to end.

I have a lot of spots where I know I can get a good shot.

On this day, I was driving by, and I saw a group of female soldiers who had gone up to a tank position, on the Israeli side, about 50 meters from the border. I don’t think these soldiers are normally stationed there, they just went up to take a look.

From this position you can see right into Gaza – and all the destruction. People and tanks don’t normally stay up there very long because it’s very exposed, so I knew I had to work quickly.

I saw the group walking up to the position, and I didn’t even have time to get out of my car. I just opened the window and took a few photographs, they took a selfie, and then they went back down.

How I made this photo

Even though it looks like we are in Gaza in this photograph, both the soldiers and I were in Israel, looking over the border.

I use a Sony camera and 100-400 lens, which kind of compresses the perspective. This is the longest lens that I have. I was about 300 meters away from the soldiers, and the buildings in Gaza behind them were about 500 meters on the other side of the border.

But it shows you how close we are. This spot is on a hill, and Gaza is below us, so you can photograph it clearly, even though you’re still in Israel.

Why the photo works

I often photograph tanks at this location because of the composition with the buildings behind in Gaza.

What caught my eye this time was the group of female soldiers because you don’t often see female soldiers fighting here, even though you hear a lot about how there are more female soldiers in combat.

What struck me is seeing them taking a selfie. Young people these days, whenever something happens, they have to photograph it, to document it, to take a selfie.

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For more AP photography, click here.