Israeli occupation forces destroyed Al Jazeera’s office in Gaza under their broader targeting of the press, killing more than 120 journalists from different outlets since October 7, 2023.
Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, provided more details about the dire situation in the Strip and his relentless media coverage on the ground of the genocide during a conversation with Qatari daily, Al-Sharq, on Sunday.
Known as one of Gaza’s most prominent voices, Dahdouh evacuated the besieged enclave on January 16 and has since remained in Doha with his daughter and some of his other family members.
Dahdouh was evacuated to treat an injury he suffered after an Israeli attack in Gaza on December 15, 2023, which killed his lifelong colleague and Al Jazeera cameraman, Samer Abu Daqqa.
In his conversation with Al-Sharq, Dahdouh noted he had to leave “due to compelling circumstances”.
“It was as if I drank poison when I left Gaza. But I had to get out. To my colleagues, I certainly hope that they will always be armed with strength, determination, will, patience, and commitment to complete professionalism and continue to carry this message and perform their duty to convey the truth of what is happening on the ground,” Dahdouh said.
Dahdouh and his family were among Israel’s main targets due to his extensive coverage of the genocide in Gaza, where Israel killed more than 26,000 Palestinians – including dozens of journalists.
On October 25, Israel killed Dahdouh’s wife, 15-year-old son, seven-year-old daughter and infant grandson in a strike in the south, despite Israel announcing the area to be a safe zone before the attack.
Israel then killed Dahdouh’s eldest son, Hamza, on January 7 when it targeted his vehicle in Gaza alongside Palestinian journalist Mustafa Thurayya.
“I felt that my family had paid the cost of my work twice,” he said.
Describing his late wife, Amna, Dahdouh said she was “his entire home”.
“With her loss, I lost everything[…] but I decided to stay there, accompanying my injured family members in Gaza City, which is the most dangerous area,” he said.
Dahdouh revealed that the Israeli occupation forces had also called one of his daughters at the time asking her to return to the north, an area that is now isolated by Israel and subjected to non-stop attacks.
“In light of all this, I left my family in the hospital, went to the office and asked the channel [Al Jazeera] to appear on live TV, and at that time I appeared steadfast, thanks to God, without being overcome by emotion or personal revenge, but professionalism prevailed,” he recounted.
Dahdouh noted that the Israeli targeting of Al Jazeera staff carried a “message” to the Qatar-based network to stop its coverage of the war in Gaza. He used the killing of his former colleague, veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in May 2022 as an example of such targeting.
“There was a special targeting of Al Jazeera, and we must not lose sight of what happened with our colleague Shireen Abu Akleh, who was targeted in a safe area by sniper bullets, who knew who Shireen Abu Akleh was, and she was not at that time in a heated area like Gaza,” Dahdouh said.
Israeli forces shot and killed Abu Akleh as she was covering an Israeli raid in Jenin and then attacked pallbearers in Palestine as they were carrying her coffin.
To date, Israel has not been held accountable for its crime, despite numerous investigations that had found the Israeli occupation forces to be the sole perpetrators of the killing. Some of those investigations included ones by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and CNN.
Meanwhile, on October 18, 2023, Israel’s attorney general reportedly approved a ban on Al Jazeera’s local bureau before it backtracked on its decision the following month over Qatar’s key role in mediating the release of captives from Hamas in Gaza.
However, Israeli occupation forces destroyed Al Jazeera’s office in Gaza under their broader targeting of the press, killing more than 120 journalists from different outlets since October 7, 2023.
“The destruction of the office[…]was a message that Al Jazeera crosses the red lines with regards to its coverage. When the coverage of Al Jazeera is compared to the rest of the satellite channels, we discover a big difference, and this is what the Israeli occupation does not want, and this is also the case. Which bothers him a lot,” Dahdouh told Al-Sharq.
Situation in Gaza
Having lived first-hand through the Israeli genocide, Dahdouh recounted the situation in Gaza, which he said cannot be described using mere words and exceeds one’s imagination due to the severity of the situation.
He said that the war made Palestinians in Gaza wish for the simplest of things, including a tent, food and water. The humanitarian situation was made worse when Israel ordered a complete air, land and sea siege on Gaza from October 8, 2023, cutting its 2.2 million population from basic resources.
“The Gaza Strip is experiencing this cruelty for the first time. Yes, previous wars were cruel and deadly, but each war had what distinguished it. There was a window of hope, a working crossing. Some areas were less dangerous than others. People found some safe areas to escape to, but this time there was no safe spot at all,” Dahdouh said.
The war displaced more than 1.9 people in Gaza, many of whom were forced to flee multiple times under Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment and attacks, especially as it advanced into the Strip.
Palestinians now have been forced to flee from Khan Younis in the south to Rafah, despite the former initially being declared as a safer zone. Israel has also besieged hospitals in Khan Younis, where hundreds of patients and medics have been stranded since last week.
“It is clear that Gaza represents a thorn for Israel, and therefore it had a desire to end and remove this thorn, and many of the Israeli leaders who spoke of their wishes for Gaza to sink into the sea and be removed and destroyed, before the war and at the beginning of the war, expressed this without ambiguity,” Dahdouh said.
Dahdouh explained that Israel had planned the destruction of the densely populated residential areas under the pretext of attacking Hamas, which he said the occupation failed to achieve.
“When we see clashes erupting in northern Gaza with the Israeli occupation forces in many areas, targeting Israeli tanks, and the largest barrage of missiles targeting Tel Aviv that came out of the north, then we are facing failure,” he said.
The Palestinian journalist underscored the fact that Israel’s narrative in the Western press “has collapsed and is no longer dominant,” especially with the mass protests against the genocide taking place across the world.
The failure of the Western press has made the Arab region’s media coverage prevail, showing the reality on the ground, Dahdouh explained.