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Gaza war stops director attending Sarajevo film festival: organizers

By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Two Gaza directors won an award at Sarajevo's film festival, though the conflict raging in their home stopped one of them from coming to receive his part of the prize, said organizers.

Abdel Salam Shehadeh and Ashraf Mashharawi shared a 7,000-pound (8,700-euro) bursary at the event late on Thursday, where British director Ken Loach praised their work and "courage to resist".

More than 2,070 Palestinians and 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed since Israel launched its offensive in Gaza on July 8 with the stated aim of putting an end to cross-border rocket fire.

Loach said air strikes had stopped Shehadeh from leaving his home in the southern Gaza border city of Rafah. Mashharawi did attend the festival, which was founded as an act of defiance while Sarajevo was besieged during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

But he told Reuters on Friday he would not be able to return to the enclave until violence stopped.

"I can't go back now because of the bombing and because of the closed border. I have to wait, but I know it is also our duty to come here and bring these voices of victims - they chase you," he said.

Shehadeh has directed more than 15 documentaries about life in Gaza and beyond, among them The Cane, Debris, Rainbow and The Shadow. Mashharawi has also looked beyond Gaza with works including “Slavery in Yemen”, and award-winning “The Road to Tawerghaa” (Libya).

"We need these film-makers to tell these stories because they are absolutely central to our understanding of the conflict," Loach told a late-night ceremony in Sarajevo.

The bursary came from the British-based Katrin Cartlidge Foundation, created in 2002 in memory of the British actress who died that year, aged 41.

(1 euro = 0.8002 British pound)

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Matt Robinson and Andrew Heavens)

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