After more than 100 days of covering the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, Palestinian journalist Wael Dahdouh, head of the local bureau of the Qatari channel Al Jazeera, left the Gaza Strip on Tuesday through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to receive medical treatment in Qatar. The journalist, injured during an Israeli attack in December, has become a journalistic reference in the Arab world in recent months. His personal ordeal made him, at 53, a symbol and a reflection of the suffering and tenacity of Gazan journalists and the rest of the population of the Palestinian enclave.
“Before the last three months, and also during them, Wael Dahdouh, alongside many of our journalists, was an icon of the attitude of the Palestinians in the face of a genocidal campaign against them, against their voices, against their presence and their presence. against its mere existence,” says Anan Quzmar, a member of the Palestinian Journalists’ Union based in the occupied West Bank town of Tulkarem.
Born in 1970 to a wealthy family in Gaza City, Dahdouh began journalism as a reporter for local media before moving to Al Jazeera in 2004, covering the strict blockade of Gaza and four previous devastating Israeli military campaigns, according to the news channel. During his youth, Dahdouh spent seven years in prison by Israeli authorities, who arrested him while he was in high school for participating in the first Intifada (1987-1993). He wanted to study medicine abroad, but Israel’s refusal led him to focus on journalism.
During these three months, Dahdouh gave voice to the atrocious daily life in Gaza. In October, an Israeli attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip hit the house where his family was staying and killed his wife, 44, and two of his children, aged 7 and 15. , as well as a grandson. who was not even two months old, as reported by Al Jazeera. Like so many others in Nuseirat, Dahdouh’s family had found refuge there after leaving their home in Gaza City following orders from the Israeli army to leave the northern strip. Four other children of the journalist, who was alive when he heard the news, were injured, and one of them required emergency surgery. The attack killed eight other members of Dahdouh’s family circle, who after the tragedy said it was “the safe zone the occupying army was talking about.”
In mid-December, Dahdouh and cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, a Belgian-Palestinian journalist who also worked for Al Jazeera, were injured by an Israeli missile reportedly launched from a drone, the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights reported. the man. , an organization based in the United States. Both were covering the damage caused by a previous Israeli attack on a United Nations school in Khan Younis, south of Gaza, which housed internally displaced people. Al Jazeera assured that Abu Daqqa, who died shortly after, could not be immediately evacuated from the area because Israeli forces had surrounded the scene and prevented rapid access of doctors to treat the injured. It was then that Dahdouh was hit by shrapnel in his right hand and waist.
In early January, another Israeli airstrike on a vehicle in Khan Younis killed another of Dahdouh’s sons, Hamza, as well as an Al Jazeera journalist. The attack also killed videographer Mostafa Thuraya, who collaborated with foreign media such as the AFP agency. The Israeli military has offered various (and contradictory) versions of the motives for the attack and even accused the journalists of belonging to two Palestinian armed groups. Relatives, colleagues and press freedom groups have rejected the Israeli story. And Al Jazeera claimed the two murdered journalists were returning home after covering the aftermath of an airstrike when their vehicle was hit.
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Despite the blows dealt by the Israeli army, Dahdouh continued his work to describe the grim situation in the Gaza Strip. After leading prayers at the funerals of several loved ones in October, the journalist said his “duty” was to return to work as soon as possible. “As you can see, the bombings continue,” he explained. After the murder of his son Hamza, Dahdouh admitted to the American channel NBC that “the cost is very high”, but added that leaving his job in the middle of a humanitarian crisis “is definitely not an option”.
“Dahdouh was personally attacked, his family was attacked and killed and, despite all this, he continued to report, which made him a target in the first place,” says Quzmar of the Palestinian Journalists’ Union. “He spoke for all Palestinians, not just journalists, when he said they were being murdered twice: once by bombs, and once by silence and (external) complicity in the genocide against the population of Gaza,” he adds.
Since the start of the Israeli military offensive on Gaza and until Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists had preliminarily documented the killing of at least 76 Palestinian media workers and journalists. The organization pointed out that the first ten weeks of the escalation of the ongoing conflict were also the deadliest period for journalists since they began collecting this data in 1992.
The Israeli military has a long history of killing journalists that goes uninvestigated or whose investigations are not made public. Before the offensive, the Committee to Protect Journalists had documented at least 20 cases of journalists killed by the Israeli army, for which no one had been held responsible. One of the cases that sparked the most outrage was the murder of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed in 2022 by Israeli forces while covering a military incursion into the occupied West Bank. His death caused great emotion and was followed by one of the longest and best attended funerals in Palestinian history.
Once in Egypt, after leaving Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, Dahdouh told Egyptian channel Al Qahera News that he intended to return to work once he had received medical treatment in Qatar. “God willing, all efforts will lead to the restitution of the rights of the Palestinian people, and to an end to these wars and this suffering,” he said.
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