French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, killed in Syria on Wednesday at the age of 28, was a passionate professional who won praise for getting as "close as possible" to the story.

"/> French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, killed in Syria on Wednesday at the age of 28, was a passionate professional who won praise for getting as "close as possible" to the story.

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SYRIA

Photographer Ochlik remembered as passionate pro

French photojournalist Remi Ochlik, killed in Syria on Wednesday at the age of 28, was a passionate professional who won praise for getting as "close as possible" to the story.

In his short career, Ochlik covered fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, the 2010 presidential election and cholera epidemic in Haiti and the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Ochlik was “very humble, full of energy, very curious,” said Franck Medan, head of the photo agency Wostok Press, where Ochlik interned in 2003 while still a student at the Icart Photo school in Paris.

“Even at 20 years old, he was already a great photographer who wanted to be as close as possible to the event,” Medan told AFP.

Barely out of his teens and still a student, Ochlik set out alone for Haiti in February 2004 to cover the riots surrounding the fall of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, eventually earning a prize for young reporters.

The head of the Wostok Press photo agency at the time applauded the photographer for his “extraordinary talent”.

“Journalists as talented as him are rare,” said Slavica Jovicevic at the international photojournalism festival Visa Pour l’Image, which displayed Ochlik’s Haiti photos.

Upon his return from three weeks in Haiti, Ochlik said “war is worse than a drug”.

“You’re 20 years old and don’t really want to die, you’d give everything to be far, very far away and to have never come,” said Ochlik, who was born in the eastern French region of Lorraine.

But once the danger has passed, he said, “there you are with only one desire, one obsession: to return, again and again”.

In 2005, Ochlik co-founded photo agency IP3 Press to cover Paris news and global conflicts, and it was for the agency that he had gone to cover the Syrian conflict.

Ochlik was killed on Wednesday when a shell crashed into a makeshift media centre set up by anti-regime militants in Homs, the flashpoint city in a nearly year-long conflict in Syria.

His photos have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, Le Monde and others, and he won first prize in general news at the 2012 World Press Photo competition for his coverage of Libya.

His online portfolio (www.ochlik.com) includes many of his compelling images of war, along with his coverage of protests at home and the 2007 French presidential election.

Marie Colvin, an American who worked for Britain’s Sunday Times, was also killed in the Homs shelling.

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SYRIA

French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
 
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
   
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
   
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
 
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
   
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
   
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
   
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
   
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
   
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.
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