‘Never seen such atrocities’: Palestine reporters recount Israel war horror

Palestinian journalists speak of the unprecedented physical, emotional and mental strains of reporting from the war zone in Gaza, the West Bank and beyond.

a man in a blue vest that says PRESS
Palestinian Roshdi Sarraj was the 23rd journalist killed in the Israel-Hamas war [Facebook]

At least 30 journalists have been killed in the latest Palestinian-Israeli round of violence that began on October 7, the Committee to Protect Journalists has said. These journalists include 25 Palestinians, four Israelis, and one Lebanese.

In response to Hamas’s attack on Israel, in which more than 1,400 people died, Israel has been staging almost-continuous raids on Gaza that have so far claimed the lives of over 8,000 people, more than 3,000 of whom are children.

Those reporting from Gaza continue to carry out their jobs while facing what Amnesty International describes as “war crimes” of collective punishment and indiscriminate attacks. But in the West Bank, Gaza and beyond, Palestinian journalists speak of unprecedented physical, emotional and mental strains. They are navigating the tricky grounds of professional reporting while facing intensified censorship, and what they say is deliberate Israeli gunfire.

Al Jazeera spoke to a number of Palestinian journalists in Gaza, the West Bank and beyond.

Majd Said, Abu Dhabi TV anchor, West Bank

“I’m one of the journalists who covered the Al-Aqsa Intifada (the second Intifada from 2000-2005). It was cruel and difficult back then, but it’s nothing like what we’re witnessing now.

The level of oppression we experience both as citizens and journalists is unmatched — oppressed because of the feelings of helplessness on all fronts, politically, on the ground and on the human level. We are unable to offer anything to our people in Gaza.

It’s true that I vent when I speak on air, but the amount of destruction, killing, and displacement is nothing we have ever experienced before. I witnessed the first Intifada and was a journalist covering the second Intifada, but never have I seen such atrocities.

And the rest of the world is in lockstep in its opposition to the Palestinian cause — the governments are opposed to Palestine politically. There is popular sympathy for the Palestinian cause, but the people seemingly have no impact on their governments. Only God knows which direction their schemes will take us.”

Journalist killed in the Israel-Gaza conflict

Aseel Mafarjeh, freelance reporter, West Bank

“These are exceptionally difficult times for Palestinian journalists in the West Bank. The loss of their colleagues has hampered their creativity, but they are still determined to expose the crimes of the occupation. Seeing a colleague lose a family member who is martyred has made journalists fearful because this situation will go on for a long time.

I saw hard things in the field. How does a mother bury her martyred son with a smile? Where does she get that strength? In these moments, I break into tears. I am conflicted because I am supposed to be strong, but at that moment I am the one who needs to be consoled. Interviewing the families of martyrs after their burial is more difficult than the funeral itself. This is when his family remembers all the good things about him. Some wish they had died in their place, while others remain steadfast. You can never forget what a mother or father say about their martyred son.

Journalists are also victims of the crimes of the occupation, like Shireen Abu Akleh and many Palestinian colleagues. The exhaustion, despair, frustration, panic, and grief that journalists experience every day makes them set limits on all their plans. Everyone has a family they worry about. But for how long?

How does a journalist live in Palestine? He is dejected, suffering from the horrors of the scene. He cannot rebel to protect his family, whose movement may be paralysed by the occupation. He could die in an instant while covering the violence.

How long can we endure this? Can we continue on this path? I think the majority would say no.”

Mosab Shawer, freelance photojournalist, Hebron, West Bank

“Since October 7, it’s been even more difficult for journalists to get around the occupied territories. Reporting on some developments has become very challenging as a result of police deployment and settlers riled up against the Arab press.

In all my 15 years of reporting, never did I feel this much helplessness and fear. We watched along with the world, as mothers mourned their children who were murdered, their dreams cut short – way too short.”

Mohammed J Abu Safia, freelance journalist and photographer, Gaza

“I am scared the most at my helplessness to protect my family. Where do we go? There is no place that we did not escape to. We moved so many times already. I have my family split between three different homes, so we don’t die together. Surviving this would enable us to speak of the injustice that has befallen us.

What I see in my tours of hospitals is beyond my ability to describe. I take photos because they can convey what my words fail at doing when it comes to what is happening in Gaza. It’s a massacre. Children burned, pregnant women targeted. Even when the Israeli army warned people to evacuate, they still bombed the road they designated as safe.”


Mahmoud Zoghbor, Palestinian freelance journalist in Cairo

“I left for Cairo six months ago in search of career advancement, but what I’m experiencing now are pangs of guilt, remorse, and helplessness over what is happening in Gaza. I call colleagues and friends there and they think they’re the next victim. I’m also unable to help spread the word and report properly from here because communication channels are being targeted.

In the first week of the war, my mind was still in a state of shock and unable to comprehend the huge amount of shocking news resulting from the bombing and displacement of civilians. But little by little, I began to feel psychological isolation and great fear as a result of the lack of communication and the absence of a permanent means to help calm anxiety and reassure me. Over the last few days, I’ve been having nightmares, great difficulties getting sleep or concentrating, and reorganising my thoughts. While I am still following up on the stories I am preparing with sources in Gaza, time is spent waiting for a possible opportunity to communicate without interference, as well as anticipating more sad news about the Israeli bombing that struck most of the vital parts of Gaza.

I am very familiar with war because I experienced it many times, but the scale of this indicates that the population is exposed to widespread collective punishment.

Although I worked in newsrooms during previous bombing rounds on Gaza, what is documented by friends and activists on social media platforms from there is harrowing.  People in Gaza are also disappearing from all means of communication, and the news media have become almost the only source for checking on the safety of everyone living inside Gaza.”

These testimonials were compiled by Egab.

Source: Al Jazeera