For days, Tareq Hajjaj has been asking anybody in a position or prepared to pay attention to assist hold his tales alive in order that he and his household are stored alive.
Hajjaj, 30, is the Gaza Strip correspondent for Mondoweiss, a information and opinion web site that covers the Palestinian territories, Israel and U.S. coverage in each locations. He’s married, has a 10-month-old son and a big prolonged household. He helps take care of his 79-year-old mom, whose diabetes has led to blindness. Hajjaj has has been working as a information author and translator since 2015.
For the reason that Israel-Hamas struggle started on Oct. 7, greater than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and West Financial institution, in response to the Hamas-run Gaza Well being Ministry − and no less than 48 of them have been journalists and media employees like Hajjaj, in response to the New York-based Committee to Defend Journalists. (The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, an trade group, says no less than 53 Palestinian journalists have been killed.) Many extra have been injured. Some have seen their whole households killed.
As soon as a robustly lined space of the Palestinian territories, worldwide information organizations started slowly whittling down their operations in Gaza in 2007 after Hamas’ takeover, pulling reporters and shutting bureaus. Along with the lethal strain they face from Israel’s forces, in response to Freedom Home, a Washington assume tank, Palestinian journalists in Gaza face repression from Hamas. Israel has allowed some media to briefly embed with its navy in Gaza in latest days, but it surely tightly controls what these journalists see and may report.
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Amid disrupted telephone and Web connections, Hajjaj has been reporting in apocalyptic circumstances whereas additionally attempting to maintain his household. He has written about what it is wish to see buildings collapse, about younger moms and pals who had been killed whereas sheltering of their properties from Israeli airstrikes, and concerning the feeling of helplessness when there may be nowhere left to run to. He has recorded movies on his telephone that blend reporting and accounts of his interrupted residence life.
“Final night time my mother awakened in an entire panic,” begins one such video, printed on Instagram on Nov. 1, as Hajjaj relates how a home subsequent to his was getting bombed. Amid the ensuing chaos, his mom asks: “Did we die?” He replies: “Not but, mother, not but.”
Hajjaj is at the moment in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. He and his household evacuated there from Gaza Metropolis on Oct. 12, becoming a member of the ranks of the 1.5 million individuals internally displaced in Gaza. Over the course of a number of days, USA TODAY communicated with Hajjaj by means of transient audio notes and messages despatched through WhatsApp, one of many solely methods to keep up a correspondence with individuals in Gaza. What follows are a few of these messages, condensed and edited for readability, that Hajjaj was capable of ship in-between reporting and attempting to remain alive.
Hello Kim. Thanks for reaching out. I do have some bother with my Web connection. I hardly ever get on-line. Generally I would like a few hours to add one (voice be aware) recording. Anyway, I will help you with no matter I can. You possibly can ship me your questions − one after the other, please − and I’ll reply as quickly as I’ve a very good (connection).
(KH: Hajjaj would not decide up any of my messages for the subsequent 24 hours. His WhatsApp notifications mark them as not obtained. He finally writes to say he wanted to swap telephones and get a distinct SIM card.)
I’m within the European Hospital (in jap Khan Yunis). It is a harmful place to return and return residence safely (Hajjaj, his spouse Timaa and their son, Qais, are staying at his father-in-law’s home in Khan Younis). However I take that danger due to all my (prolonged) household (3 brothers, their wives, 13 kids) evacuated to this hospital after my eldest brother was bombed whereas staying at his residence (in Gaza Metropolis). He acquired important accidents . … All his relations acquired severe wounds. However they’re nonetheless alive.
The state of affairs on the bottom is hard and arduous. We’re seeing issues and scenes we aren’t acquainted with. Persons are struggling all day. From the morning to the night simply to get bread for his or her households. On the bakeries, 1000’s of individuals are lining up. They spend all day to get their meals. And generally lots of them return residence with none.
I used to exit to report within the discipline carrying my press uniform (protecting vest and helmet). However after the concentrating on of journalists in Gaza I’ve stopped doing that and now I’m going out with none indicators that point out or replicate I am a journalist. I am hiding from the Israeli drones and air drive as a result of I consider at any time when they’ve the possibility they may bomb me as properly.
(KH: Israel denies it intentionally targets journalists, and civilians extra broadly. However once they see their pals and colleagues being killed every day, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Financial institution say they do not consider them. Earlier than the latest bout of Israel-Hamas preventing, in Might, the Committee to Defend Journalists issued a report that discovered that Israeli navy fireplace led to the deaths of 18 Palestinian journalists during the last 22 years. The report, titled “Lethal Sample,” concluded that “probes into journalist killings by the hands of the IDF comply with a routine sequence. Israeli officers low cost proof and witness claims, usually showing to clear troopers for the killings whereas inquiries are nonetheless in progress. The IDF’s process for analyzing navy killings of civilians equivalent to journalists is a black field.”)
The whole lot on the bottom is basically arduous. Means past possible. … Getting water is like an inconceivable mission.
I’ve a household I must take care of. And I’ve an obligation and job I must do. I’m actually distracted between each of them. I (really feel like I) cannot go away my residence daily to exit and report. And I can also’t keep at residence.
(KH: For the primary time, Hajjaj sends a prolonged textual content message.)
Right now, I may handle to see my nieces and nephews after a month of our displacement. All of them take shelter within the European Hospital. After they first see me, all of them and I hurry to hug one another. I hugged all of them, one after the other, and kissed all of them. I missed them a lot. I missed the times all of us had been residing in our constructing (in Gaza Metropolis) − that was destroyed by Israel − and each morning they arrive to my residence within the floor ground asking me for sweets and sweet. I all the time carry them every thing they want.
Right now, their faces look totally different. They aren’t the identical youngsters anymore after a month of day by day bombardment and killing round them, they appear to me that they grew 100 years older. They aren’t asking for sweet, their tales that they inform are usually not about toys or sweets, they discuss loss of life, individuals beneath rubbles, steady bombing, horror, their friends who acquired killed, they usually ask concerning the ceasefire.
Sure, they develop previous. Older than their ages, their childhood was smashed by the Israeli horror.
Im actually sorry youngsters, Im sorry that I can’t enable you to this time. They even weren’t that glad by the massive bag of sweets that I introduced for them. They requested me with their harmless faces, why don’t you carry Qais − my son − with you? They all the time play with him all day. I lied to them saying that I’ll carry him subsequent time. However the truth is that I can’t take him anyplace now till the struggle ends.
Inside our residence (Hajjaj’s father-in-law’s home in Khan Younis), the state of affairs just isn’t that good. We’re sleeping on the bottom subsequent to one another. We principally spend the night time listening to the radio, the one device we’ve got to listen to the information. … All of us collect spherical to it, determined to listen to something a couple of cease-fire.
Kim … I am sorry I am unable to offer you lengthy solutions and particulars. I’m all the time distracted and it is not potential for me to assume clearly.
That is our final day of fine meals. We’re working out of cooking gasoline. We have run out of flour for bread. Ranging from tomorrow we will be part of the (bakery) traces for (he expects) six or seven hours to get bread. We’re consuming principally from tin cans. Nobody asks what it’s. We simply eat. We’re grateful we nonetheless have one thing. 1000’s of households do not have something.
I actually miss the dangerous circumstances and life we had (in Gaza, a reference to Israel’s blockade, in place since Hamas took management of the enclave in 2007) earlier than Oct. 7. I miss every thing. I miss my mornings. I miss my kid’s smiles. I miss my residence (in Gaza Metropolis) that I’ll by no means return to as a result of it was fully destroyed. I miss the views over olive bushes. … I merely miss regular days, regular life.
After Oct. 7 all of us in Gaza have been (accused of being) Hamas supporters. In truth, I’m not. And I’ll by no means be.
(KH: One other textual content message, written in reply to a query a couple of journalist for a tv channel named Palestine TV who broke down stay on air as he heard the information that his colleague, Mohammed Abu Hatab, had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. “We will’t take it anymore, we’re exhausted. … We’re gonna get killed, it’s only a matter of when. There’s no safety, no impunity. … Nothing protects us. Nothing protects journalists. We lose lives, one after the other,” the Palestine TV journalist stated stay on air.)
I used to be terrified. I heard the information and requested: Why? Did they begin to goal journalists inside their properties with their households? I attempted to take a look at the background of Mohammed. He was a traditional journalist.
(KH: Hajjaj has sufficient connectivity to write down on X, previously Twitter.)
One other good friend and colleague Mohammed Al-Jajja was killed along with his full household in Gaza. Israel bombed their residence leaving no survivors.
(KH: He then follows this up with a Fb publish, the place he additionally posts a photograph of his good friend together with his press ID and protecting vest.)
Mohammed and I shared highschool on the identical bench. He was nice English speaker and author. He all the time helps all of his classmates. He works as a journalist in Gaza. Final night time Israel killed him alongside his full household, his spouse, his beautiful youngsters, and over 10 individuals in a single airstrike. We’re sorry Mohammed, we’re all responsible.
Study extra about Tareq’s story with this video: