Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Samer Abudaqa, an Al Jazeera journalist killed in an Israeli attack in the Gaza Strip.
The Al Jazeera Media Network confirmed on Friday that Abudaqa, a cameraman for Al Jazeera Arabic in Gaza, had been hit in an Israeli drone attack while reporting at Farhana school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
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His colleague, Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Wael Dahdouh, who lost his wife, son, daughter and grandson in a previous Israeli bombing, was wounded.
“Al Jazeera holds the Israeli Occupation Forces fully accountable for Samer’s safety, deeming this incident a deliberate attempt to target its correspondents and their families in the Gaza Strip,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
Abudaqa and Dahdouh had worked tirelessly to cover the war between Israel and Hamas, paying special attention to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, where the Israeli siege and relentless bombardment have displaced more than 80 percent of the population and created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
Colleagues at Al Jazeera remembered Abudaqa as an exemplary journalist and a caring man, a father of four who was beloved by those who worked alongside him.
“He was very close to me. We were sharing food and drinks together at night, sometimes he just came to me searching for anything he could do to help us, [to ask us], ‘What would you like to eat for dinner?’” Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said from Rafah in southern Gaza.
“He asked me all the time about my family members, about how I feel, what are the newest updates on the ground; he was really a brother before he was a colleague.”
Abu Azzoum said that Abudaqa had hoped to reunite with members of his family after the war.
“Sometimes, he showed me photos of his kids, saying, ‘This is my eldest son,’ ‘This my youngest one,’ ‘This one is the prettiest’,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Heba Akila said Abudaqa would “add humorous moments and joy to all of our gatherings”.
“Samer was a wonderful human,” she said.
“There is no place that is spared. There is no safe place. There is no immunity for anyone.”
Dahdouh was hit by shrapnel on his upper arm, and managed to reach Nasser hospital where he was treated for minor injuries. But “Israeli forces prevented ambulances and rescue workers from reaching” Samer, “denying the much-needed emergency treatment”, Al Jazeera said.
“We captured the devastating destruction and reached places that had not been reached by any camera lens since the Israeli ground operation started,” Dahdouh said from his hospital bed, noting that he felt “something big” that knocked him back onto the ground.
“I am trying to gather my strength to continue with you what we started on the first day of this war. Despite everything, I expect that I will be able to be with you live on television,” he added.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said all of Abudaqa’s colleagues in the occupied West Bank and Gaza were “in shock”.
“There isn’t a single Palestinian journalist who you speak to that won’t tell you a story of either being detained, or being shot at, or being tear gassed, or being harassed, or their families being harassed,” Khan said from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
“Since October 7th it has got a lot tougher to be a Palestinian journalist … and yet, they still do what they are doing,” he added.
“This is really the message I have taken away from all of our colleagues in Gaza: They wake up every morning with a determination to continue reporting. I am actually in awe of it.”
Four Al Jazeera journalists have lost family members in the Israeli assault on Gaza since the war began on October 7. Abudaqa is the first Al Jazeera journalist to be killed since then.
Al Jazeera has called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for attacks on reporters.
Before Abudaqa’s death, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that at least 64 reporters and media workers – 56 Palestinians, four Israelis, and three Lebanese – have been killed since the fighting began on October 7.
“I think this is now a press freedom issue. I think we have to ask ourselves ‘What is the [Israeli military] trying to achieve? Why won’t they let foreign journalists in?” Tim Dawson, deputy general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, told Al Jazeera.
“We know that a great many Palestinian journalists have been targeted, many of them have told me that personally, which is a terrifying and unforgivable prospect.”
Abudaqa joined Al Jazeera in June 2004, working as a cameraman and editor.
The journalist, born in 1978, was the father of three boys and a girl. He was a resident of the town of Abasan al-Kabira near Khan Younis.
Abudaqa is the 13th Al Jazeera journalist killed on duty since the launch of the network in 1996.
Last year, Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, renowned across the Arab world, was killed by the Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank while reporting.