Gaza – A number of Palestinian journalists spoke to Al-Jazeera about their fear and exhaustion from covering the continuous Israeli bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip and their determination to continue their work.
The latest violence erupted on May 10, when Israel launched air strikes on Gaza after the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls the territory, fired rockets at Israel.
The escalation came after weeks of escalating tensions in occupied East Jerusalem, as Israeli forces wounded hundreds of protesters in a crackdown on the Temple Mount, a site revered by Muslims and Jews. When Israel missed the deadline for Hamas to withdraw its forces from the area, the movement fired several rockets towards Jerusalem.
At least 222 people were killed in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, according to health authorities, including 63 children. At least 12 people were killed in rocket attacks on Israel, including two children.
The Israeli raids on Gaza witnessed the targeting of many high-rise buildings, including the Al-Galaa Tower, which housed international media offices. Press freedom advocates condemned the attack as an attempt to silence journalists.
Israel also destroyed Al-Jawhara and Al-Shorouk office buildings in Gaza City, which housed more than a dozen international and local media outlets.
Youssef Abu Hussein, a journalist with Al-Aqsa Radio in Gaza, was killed at dawn today, Wednesday, in an Israeli bombardment of his home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in the northern Gaza Strip.
Al-Jazeera spoke to four Palestinian journalists about their experiences covering the Gaza bombing.
During her live coverage, Ghalia Hamad was in constant contact with her daughters at home to check their health.
She told Al-Jazeera: “Every time I hear a bomb, I feel panic and immediately call home to check on my family.”
The 30-year-old journalist, who works as a reporter for Al-Jazeera Mubasher in the besieged Gaza Strip, has two daughters, ages five and a year and a half.
This is a brutal war. It is the first time that we have witnessed such an attack of such ferocity. The last war in 2014, and the other wars in 2012 and 2009, were also difficult, but this war is the most difficult. “
Like other journalists in the field, Hamad has not stopped working since the escalation.
We have to deal with the dangerous situation around us. We have nothing to protect ourselves. “Everyone is a target and under fire,” Hamad told Al-Jazeera.
“I am trying to do my job without thinking about the damage I might face. We lost our offices that were bombed a few days ago.”
Like any other mother, Hamad wishes to be with her family, especially her daughters, to reassure them during these difficult times, “where the sounds of bombing are very heavy and everywhere.”
Hamad said, “When I heard that a bomb fell near my house, I called immediately to verify.”
“Even so, I will not leave. I must continue to pass on the message and tell what is happening to people.”
Photojournalist Hussam Salem had not planned to cover the recent outbreak of violence. The photographer left Gaza for Turkey two years ago, but returned to visit his family and arrived on the same day that Israel began air strikes on the Strip.
I was planning to celebrate Eid with my family. However, it was surprising that I was greeted by the violent strikes and shelling upon my arrival. “It was a huge shock for me,” said the 32-year-old photographer.
He added, “I joined the coverage area without seeing my family.”
Salem has worked as a photographer for over 10 years. He covered the last three wars on Gaza, as well as the Great March of Return, a series of protests in 2018.
Salem’s work has been published in Al Jazeera English, the New York Times, and many international agencies.
“My experience this time is different. The situation is very difficult. There is a great risk of going to the places that were bombed without knowing whether the bombing has stopped or not.”
The Israeli air strikes affected everything: the towers, apartment buildings, streets, homes, and even the offices of international news agencies.
“I have many concerns, especially my family, as I steal a few hours to go see them and return to the field. This is our business tax. We have to deal with the risks of any Israeli attack.”
Samar Abu Elouf
Samar Abu Alouf works from early morning until evening, covering developments in Gaza. She is a freelance photographer, working for the New York Times and news agencies.
Covering this attack is much more difficult than previous times. “The bombing is everywhere and the types of weapons used are different,” the 33-year-old photographer said.
Abu Alouf, a mother of four, said leaving her children behind was her “weakness.”
“It’s really hard to leave your children alone, while they are very afraid of the tremendous pounding sounds around them.”
A few days ago, Abu Alouf and her family evacuated their home after an Israeli missile hit their neighbor’s house.
Those were horrific moments. My children were crying and we left the house as soon as possible. My house was badly damaged by the bombing. Abu Alouf said that the missile shrapnel penetrated the roof.
Despite these pressures, Abu Alouf says that the difficulties will not prevent her from continuing her work, and that it will increase her determination to cover the story.
“I try to adapt to the situation and stay as safe as possible,” she added.
“It is sad to see the towers and buildings that we used to work on from being bombed.” Abu Alouf said, “Everywhere we have unforgettable memories.
Rushdi Al-Sarraj, 29, is a journalist and filmmaker at Ain Media.
“My work is not limited to reporting what is happening only, but it integrates journalism and filmmaking, which focuses on telling news stories, and what’s behind the news,” he said.
“I am always looking for people who have survived the ruins of their buildings, trying to cover their stories in short stories and films.
“This mission is difficult under normal circumstances, so you can imagine working under a fierce attack that does not distinguish between a journalist, a civilian, or a military commander.”
Regarding the Israeli bombing of media buildings, Al-Sarraj said that Israel is working hard “to silence the image and sound, and prohibit any news or information that exposes its crimes.”
The Israeli occupation killed many Palestinian journalists. He added that my colleague in my company, Yasser Murtaja, was killed in the peaceful protests of the Great March of Return two years ago, and now journalists continue to be targeted.
Al-Sarraj believes that the task of journalists in Gaza is dangerous, due to the lack of protective equipment such as helmets, which is prohibited from entering the Gaza Strip in light of the siege.
“It is always difficult to differentiate between your feelings as a journalist and as a human being when you see the horrific scenes of blood and people under the rubble,” Al-Sarraj said.
My family never stops calling me for fear that I will be harmed. It is an endless cycle of fear and exhaustion. But we must continue to share our message. “