Remembering Palestinian journalist Amna Homaid

Israeli Channel 14 aired her photo, claiming she was a ‘terrorist’. A few weeks later an Israeli missile killed her and her son.

Amna Homaid and her baby daughter Duha
Palestinian journalist Amna Homaid and her baby daughter Duha photographed in Gaza [Facebook]

On April 24, Amna Homaid’s torn body lay in the rubble of a house in Shati camp, in the Western part of Gaza city, as rescuers tried to find survivors. An Israeli attack had struck the building, killing her and her eldest son Mahdi. Her brother and her other five children were injured but survived.

Her death was added to the dark statistic of more than 140 journalists and medical workers murdered in Gaza by Israel’s genocidal onslaught, per the count maintained by the Gaza Media Office. This year – like last – more journalists have been killed from Palestine than from any other nation.

Palestinian women journalists have always been at the forefront of Israel’s violent occupation and the wars it has waged on Palestinians. Their bravery and dedication have helped shine light on the suffering and atrocities the Palestinian people have been through and continue to face.

But Amna was more than a journalist; she was a poet and a feminist activist. She was born in Gaza in 1990 to a family who traced their roots to the Palestinian town of Isdud – what the Israelis now call Ashdod.

As is the case for most women in Gaza, Amna’s journey was marked by resilience and an unwavering commitment to education. She obtained a BA from the Islamic University of Gaza in 2016 and later joined a master’s degree programme at Al-Aqsa University. Both of her alma maters have been completely destroyed by Israeli bombardment.

She worked for several local newspapers and radio stations, lending her voice to the marginalised, conducting research and advocating for women’s rights and the Palestinian cause.

She lived in the Yarmouk neighbourhood, just a few kilometres away from Gaza’s Mediterranean coast. Had she been born on the other side of the sea, she may have enjoyed a sprawling career and prominence, winning many awards and global recognition for her many gifts. As it is today, her final reward has been death at the hands of the Israeli army.

Amna left behind a seven-month-old baby, Duha, as well as children Ali (10), Mohammed (9), Amir (5), and Ghana (4). Her husband – journalist and activist Saed Hassunah – has been unable to reach them.

a photo of three children and one baby in a alleyway in Gaza
A photo of four of her children that Amna took shortly before she was killed [Courtesy of Saed Hassunah]

They had become separated in December after Israeli soldiers raided an apartment building in Gaza city where they had taken refuge, kidnapped and tortured him and forced Amna and the children to leave. After the Israeli army released Saed – beaten up, stripped and with no possessions – he made his way south, as he was unable to establish contact with his family for days. Injured and deeply worried about his wife and children, he suffered a nervous breakdown.

Prior to this horrible ordeal, the family had survived Israeli bombings targeting the places where they had sought shelter twice. The second time Amna and Duha were injured.

“I can’t stop thinking of them after the murder of Amna,” Saed told me. “I can’t go to the north and they can’t come to the south. We are separated. I could not even attend the funeral of Amna or bid her the last farewell. and I can’t sleep, thinking of them.”

Amna’s family are emblematic of all in Gaza who grapple with the atrocities unfolding there. The words of the United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, ring with a sombre truth: “The colossal amount of evidence concerning international crimes committed by Israel in Gaza just over the past six months could keep the International Criminal Court busy for the next five decades”.

The horror of Amna’s death is forever captured in a report aired by Al Jazeera Arabic. As correspondent Ismail al-Ghoul arrives at the scene of the bombing, one of Amna’s sons, Mohammed, runs towards him. With tears streaming down his face and his voice shaking, the little boy calls out: “Uncle Ismail!” “Yes, what happened my dear?” the reporter asks.

The boy pours out his heart: “My mom and my brother are trapped under the rubble, and my other siblings and uncle are wounded. I came out OK,” he says, crying and not realising he has small pieces of shrapnel in his body.

The reporter asks him what happened. Mohammed struggles to speak. Breathing heavily and sobbing, he says a rocket struck while the family were sitting together. As he is overcome by tears, a relative rushes to embrace him, offering what little solace could be found amid the unfolding genocide.

a photo of Mahdi Hassounah
Amna’s eldest son, Mahdi, was killed with her on April 24 [Courtesy of Saed Hassounah]

Mohammed’s words are a spectre in my mind, thousands of kilometres away in Canada and helpless to do anything against the savage Leviathan unleashed onto Gaza. I hope someday these words will echo in the halls of international justice.

Before she was taken from us, Amna faced a smear campaign. Israel’s Channel 14 broadcast a photograph of her and claimed that she was part of the Palestinian armed resistance and that her presence at al-Shifa Hospital proved Hamas “hid in the hospital”.

Instead of displaying solidarity with a fellow journalist under fire, the Israeli media chose to incite against her instead. Amna was indeed at al-Shifa, but left the hospital just before the siege began so she avoided death in the massacre of at least 400 people in March. This decision to leave prolonged her life by a few weeks.

Her husband believes she was targeted for her reporting on the Israeli genocide.

A few weeks before her murder, Amna penned a poignant reflection on her Facebook page:

“My choices have always been a mix of bitter and astonishing experiences. Though the junctures are fraught with difficulty and fate hangs in the balance, I have never been one to waver, to bend, to retreat, or to falter. Nothing will deter me from upholding the sanctity of sacraments and carrying and delivering the message that I deeply realised at a young age.”

Amna’s murder on April 24 is a loss to her family, her friends, the Palestinian people and anyone committed to building a better world. Her words of hope and dedication are an incredible testament to the power of the human spirit to survive through the unimaginable. I hope they inspire future generations to act as bravely as she did.

Rest in power, Amna!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.