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In Gaza, Palestinian journalists are documenting a war they're also trying to survive

Palestinian journalists attempt to connect to the internet using their phones in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas.
Said Khatib
/
AFP via Getty Images
Palestinian journalists attempt to connect to the internet using their phones in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas.

TEL AVIV, Israel – Since Israel launched its military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, the Israeli military — with rare exceptions for military tours — has prevented foreign journalists from entering the Gaza Strip.

Only Palestinian reporters who were already inside the enclave are able to report from there on the conflict and all it entails: The fierce urban combat, the air strikes, the mass displacement of Palestinians and how the civilian population is coping with it all.

For this, they've paid a heavy price.

At least 95 journalists have been killed since Oct. 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It has been the deadliest war for reporters since the group began gathering data in 1992.

The journalists in Gaza, like everyone else there, struggle to survive. They need to find food, water and shelter — all in short supply.

To better understand the realities of reporting from Gaza, we spoke with three Palestinian journalists who have been covering the war since the beginning. All three were displaced from their homes. One of them, Khawla Al Khaldi, recently left Gaza for Egypt. The two others are in Rafah — one of whom, Ibrahim Qannan, has been living in a tent.

We asked them about the challenges they're facing, what they hoped to achieve with their reporting and what they hoped people outside Gaza understood about the realities there. Here is what they told us.

These interviews have been edited in parts for length and clarity.

Ibrahim Qannan

Ibrahim Qannan, 50, is a journalist with Al Ghad TV, an Arabic language news network based in Cairo.

In his first week covering the war in Gaza, journalist Ibrahim Qannan learned that 11 of his family members had been killed.
/ Ibrahim Qannan
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Ibrahim Qannan
In his first week covering the war in Gaza, journalist Ibrahim Qannan learned that 11 of his family members had been killed.

What are the logistics of you getting your work done?

We are under very heavy work pressure in the Gaza Strip due to the developments in the field, the shelling and the targeting, so you spend most of your time in front of the camera observing events, whether from the fixed work site or in field locations ... I spent most of the days of the war in Khan Younis on the ground in the targeted places.

After doing your reports, you will return again to stand in front of the camera and do your stand-up reports. Of course, this routine is very tiring on the psychological and physical levels because you will be [working] 24 hours out of 24, and there are no breaks.

What has it been like to cover a war you're also living?

The first day of the war I was injured, and the third day of the war or the fourth day of the war, I received the news of the death of 11 of my family members — my cousins — while I was on air ... After a period of about a month and a half [of reporting on the war], I also received the news of the death of 17 were killed in Deir Al-Balah , my direct cousins. I mean, you are talking about 17 people. And my house was demolished.

What keeps you motivated?

Our duty and ethics require that we defend the rights of people wherever they are in any region of the world, whether in Gaza or outside Gaza ... You work as a media journalist or journalist with a national and professional humanitarian message who must perform his mission to the fullest.

Akram Al Satarri

Akram Al Satarri, 48, is a freelance journalist in Gaza who has reported for NBC and Reuters, among other outlets.

Akram Al Satarri says he is motivated to report from Gaza in order to help show the world the realities of the war. "Even if it means us losing our lives," he says.
/ Akram El Satarri
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Akram El Satarri
Akram Al Satarri says he is motivated to report from Gaza in order to help show the world the realities of the war. "Even if it means us losing our lives," he says.

What is your daily work routine?

You start your day by gathering information about the different incidents that took place at different times throughout the day. Sometimes you have to go to a specific area that was hit to get more accurate information there ... Sometimes because of the general security situation or lack of fuel, I walk there on foot, sometimes I go on an animal-pulled cart, to make sure that I get the information.

What about internet and electricity?

We keep struggling to find those good internet and electricity sources. Sometimes you work for two or three days then it goes off, which means you have to find another alternative. So we spend most of our time looking for electricity supply and looking for internet access.

What motivates you to keep going?

We understand that we have to do this for the sake of reflecting the suffering of the people, and all the people trying to survive ... we as journalists are change agents. We are hoping that by comprehensive coverage of Gaza, even if it means us losing our lives ...We are ready to go the extra mile for the sake of helping the people and for the sake of spreading the truth about this situation.

What are you trying tell the world with your reporting?

I want the people outside Gaza to know that the situation that Gazans have been living in is extremely unbelievable, inconceivable in the sense of the extent of suffering ... and they need to know that it can within their reach to change the situation if they intensified their activism ... and communicated in the U.S. with their congressmen and [members of parliament] in the U.K..

Khawla Al Khalidi

Khawla Al Khalidi, 34, reports for the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya and Al Haddath news channels, as well as Palestine TV, a network run by the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Like other journalists in Rafah, Khawla Al Khaldi has struggled with intermittent access to the internet. "We continuously sought alternatives, which was naturally very exhausting under the humanitarian circumstances we were living in," she says.
/ Khawala Al Khaldi
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Khawala Al Khaldi
Like other journalists in Rafah, Khawla Al Khaldi has struggled with intermittent access to the internet. "We continuously sought alternatives, which was naturally very exhausting under the humanitarian circumstances we were living in," she says.

What's your biggest challenge in getting your work done?

The biggest problem facing us as journalists [is that] because we rely heavily on the internet and electricity to continuously charge our mobile phones and devices. Additionally, we needed to constantly update data and information to deliver it to media organizations ... We continuously sought alternatives, which was naturally very exhausting under the humanitarian circumstances we were living in because we're part of the Israeli targets around the clock and part of the military operations in the Gaza Strip.

What motivated you to keep working under those circumstances?

What motivated us to continue working in the Gaza Strip was our genuine belief that we have the moral high ground and have a more truthful narrative ... We are fully convinced that we have rights and that we are the owners of the narrative. Therefore, we consider the Palestinian pen and Palestinian media to be a clear and very important means of conveying the truth and holding Israel accountable for its crimes.

What do you want the world to know?

The world must fully understand that the Gaza Strip is being annihilated not just every hour or day, but every minute ... Many images couldn't be documented, meaning that what is released to the media is only 10% of what actually happens on the ground. We have indeed lost our past, present and future ... We don't have more time so they must act quickly. This is what we ask for.

NPR producer Abu Bakr Bashir contributed to this report from London.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

D. Parvaz
D. Parvaz is an editor at Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, she worked at several news organizations covering wildfires, riots, earthquakes, a nuclear meltdown, elections, political upheaval and refugee crises in several countries.