Photojournalist Motaz Azaiza, who has been documenting the impact of the war in the Gaza Strip, has left the enclave and headed to Qatar.
Azaiza announced on Instagram on Tuesday that he was leaving the besieged strip before boarding a Qatari military airplane at Egypt’s El Arish International Airport. However, it is unclear how he was able to leave Gaza or why he has evacuated.
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“This is the last time you will see me with this heavy, stinky [press] vest. I decided to evacuate today. … Hopefully soon I’ll jump back and help to build Gaza again,” Azaiza said in a video.
I had to evacuate for a lot of reasons you all know some of it but not all of it.
Thank you all
Pray for Gaza. pic.twitter.com/sIqULe9d5V
— MoTaz (@azaizamotaz9) January 23, 2024
The 24-year-old Palestinian captured the attention of millions globally as he filmed himself in a press vest and helmet to document conditions during Israel’s war, which has killed more than 25,000 people in Gaza.
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,139 people and taking more than 200 people captive.
Azaiza’s coverage often took the form of raw, unfiltered videos about injured children or families crushed under rubble in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes.
He said he has had to “evacuate for a lot of reasons you all know some of it but not all of it”.
In his post, he was seen on a video about to board a grey plane emblazoned with the words “Qatar Emiri Air Force”.
“First video outside Gaza,” he said in one clip, revealing that it was his first time on a plane. “Heading to Qatar.”
He also shared a video of the inside of the plane as it landed in Doha.
Social media ‘hero’
Since the start of the war, the photojournalist has amassed millions of followers across multiple platforms.
His Instagram following has grown from about 27,500 to 18.25 million in the more than 100 days since October 7, according to an assessment of social media analytics by Al Jazeera.
His Facebook account grew from a similar starting point to nearly 500,000 followers. He now has one million followers on X, formerly known as Twitter.
As well as his social media posts, Azaiza has produced content for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA).
Social media users thanked Azaiza for his coverage of the war, many saluting him as a hero.
“Thank you for everything you have done, you have moved mountains , what you have done in the last 100 days people can’t do in their whole lifetime. You were a pivotal voice in showing the world the Israeli atrocities in Gaza. Wishing you well and safety,” one user said on X.
Thank you for everything you have done, you have moved mountains , what you have done in the last 100 days people can’t do in their whole lifetime . You were a pivotal voice in showing the world the Israeli atrocities in Gaza . Wishing you well and safety ✊🏻🇵🇸
— Abla #FreePalestine (@falstinya1948) January 23, 2024
“I’m so glad you had the opportunity to get out, God willing, YOU WILL RETURN TO A FREE PALESTINE,” wrote another.
“We love you so deeply,” American musician Kehlani wrote, adding, “Thank you for your humanity.”
“Frame that vest. It’s the armor of one of history’s greatest heroes,” comedian Sammy Obeid said.