Posted in Announcements

Updates to AP’s Middle East team

, by Patrick Maks

In a memo to staff today, Middle East News Director Karin Laub announced changes to the team that covers the region in all formats:

Top, from left: Najib Jobain, Fay Abuelgasim, Isabel DeBre, Oded Balilty; bottom, from left: Acer Hoteiba, Sam Magdy, Wafaa Shurafa, Bassam Hatoum. (AP Photo)
Colleagues, I am pleased to announce the promotions and transfers of eight staffers in the Middle East who are taking on new responsibilities in the region. The group includes colleagues from all formats. Among them are relative newcomers as well as AP veterans with decades of experience that is crucial to covering a complicated region. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues on their new assignments. Fay Abuelgasim, senior video producer, Beirut Abuelgasim, 32, grew up in Khartoum, Sudan. She joined the AP in 2014 as a Dubai-based video journalist. From her base, she traveled across the Middle East covering major events including the Islamic State group in Iraq, the Gulf crisis, the protest movements in Sudan and Lebanon and the Ethiopian refugee crisis. In her new role, she oversees video coverage in Lebanon and Syria. Oded Balilty, chief photographer for Israel and the Palestinian territories, Jerusalem Balilty, 41, began working for the AP in Jerusalem in 2002, at the peak of the second Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation, and joined the staff in 2005. In 2007 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for his photograph of a lone Jewish settler confronting Israeli security forces during the evacuation of a West Bank settlement outpost. Balilty was based in Beijing from 2007-2009 and then resumed his work for the AP in Israel. In his new post, Balilty will oversee AP photographers in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Isabel DeBre, reporter, Dubai DeBre, 24, grew up in Los Angeles and joined the AP in 2018. After interning at the Jerusalem bureau, she continued there for several months before moving to Cairo, where she covered Egypt, Libya, Sudan and Yemen. In the fall, she relocated to Dubai, where she reports on the Gulf and Iran. Bassam Hatoum, senior video producer, Dubai Hatoum, 53, was born in Beirut and joined the AP as a cameraman and producer in Lebanon in 1994. He covered long-running conflicts in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and has traveled extensively for major news stories across the rest of the Arab world and Europe. Hatoum is a two-time recipient of the AP’s Gramling Award. In his new role, he coordinates video coverage in the Gulf, with the aim of strengthening AP’s presence there. Acer Hoteiba, head of the Arabic Language Service, Cairo Hoteiba, 59, was born in Bonn, Germany. She joined AP’s Arabic Language Service as a senior translator in January 2008 when the service was just getting off the ground. In her new role, she oversees more than a dozen translators and will play an important role in expanding the ALS offerings and making the service more attractive to online clients. Najib Jobain, senior video producer, Cairo Jobain, 54, was born in the Gaza Strip and joined the AP as a cameraman in the Palestinian territory in 1994. Since then, he has covered a series of major stories, from the establishment of a Palestinian autonomy government and Yasser Arafat’s return from exile in the 1990s to the Israeli withdrawal in 2005, the takeover of the Islamic militant group Hamas in 2007, an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade and three Israel-Hamas wars. Jobain was wounded by Israeli army fire in 1997 when he covered a Palestinian protest in Gaza. Jobain traveled extensively, covering stories in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. In his new role, he coordinates video coverage in Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. Sam Magdy, reporter, Cairo Magdy, 38, began working for Egyptian media in 2008 and became the editor-in-chief of the country’s biggest online news outlet, Masrawy, in 2013. Three years later, he began freelancing for AP in the Cairo bureau. In this role, he reported on conflicts in Libya, Yemen and Sudan, where an uprising toppled long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. Magdy also reported on his native Egypt, including the government’s crackdown on dissent and the country’s fledging #MeToo movement. Magdy joined the AP staff earlier this year and will continue to cover Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Sudan. Wafaa Shurafa, video producer, Gaza Shurafa, 38, was born in the United Arab Emirates and settled in the Gaza Strip with her family in 1994, after the establishment of a Palestinian autonomy government there. Shurafa began working for the AP in 2005, just before Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza. In her role as producer, she helped cover a series of major news stories in Gaza, including the 2006 parliament election that brought the Islamic militant Hamas to power, the 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the Israeli-Egyptian border blockade of the territory and three Israel-Hamas wars. In her new role, Shurafa oversees all video coverage in Gaza.