One day after his family was killed in an Israeli airstrike, Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief Wael al-Dahdouh was back reporting on air.
Late Tuesday, Dahdouh’s wife, son and daughter were killed in an airstrike that struck their house in the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza.
They had moved there following Israel’s warning on Oct. 13 for those in the northern half of the territory to leave for the south. Dahdouh’s grandson and eight other extended family members were also killed in the attack.
The tragedy underscores the risks facing journalists covering the war between Israel and Hamas, which was sparked after the militant group invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people.
Following the airstrike, Al Jazeera aired footage showing Dahdouh entering the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah on Wednesday to see his dead wife, son and daughter in the morgue.
“What happened is clear. This is a series of targeted attacks on children, women and civilians. I was just reporting from Yarmouk about such an attack, and the Israeli raids have targeted many areas, including Nuseirat,” Dahdouh told Al Jazeera on his way out of the hospital.
Al Jazeera “strongly condemns the indiscriminate targeting and killing of innocent civilians in Gaza, which has led to the loss of Wael al-Dahdouh’s family and countless others,” the Qatari network said in a statement.
Youmna ElSayed, an Al Jazeera correspondent in Gaza, told the broadcaster, “It’s heartbreaking to be reporting about Wael’s family and to see how broken he is. He calms everyone. He speaks to us like a big brother, not just a bureau chief.”
As of Thursday, at least 27 journalists have been killed in the war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ. Among them, 22 were Palestinian, four were Israeli, and one was Lebanese.
“I’ve got to give credit to a lot of journalists who are very brave and trying to cover this. The world needs to see what’s happening,” James Cunningham, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, told VOA.
Journalists in Gaza are facing particularly high risks, CPJ said, due to Israel’s airstrikes and the threat of a looming Israeli ground invasion. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Thursday that more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began.
“The main challenge for journalists covering the military confrontation in Gaza is their own safety — being killed while covering airstrikes or clashes,” Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, told VOA.
“Journalists in Gaza have paid and continue to pay unprecedented tolls and face exponential threats,” Mansour later added.
Spotty internet connections and unreliable electricity access exacerbate the challenges facing reporters in Gaza, VOA reported shortly after the war began.
Last week, the Israeli government approved emergency regulations that may lay the groundwork for blocking Al Jazeera in Israel.
The regulations “will allow the cessation of activities of a foreign broadcasting organization that harms the security of the state, for the duration of the war,” the Communications Ministry said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Shloma Karhi, the communications minister, called Al Jazeera “a propaganda mouthpiece” for Hamas.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, has asked the Qatari prime minister to bridle Al Jazeera’s rhetoric about Gaza. Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari government but operates independently.
Al Jazeera did not immediately reply to VOA’s request for comment.
Press freedom groups have urged Israel to refrain from closing Al Jazeera. “A plurality of media voices is essential in order to hold power to account, especially in times of war,” CPJ’s Mansour said in a statement.
“Shutting that agency down and removing them would be a very chilling step for freedom of expression and the media in the region that would open the floodgates to other kinds of restrictions,” Quinn McKew, executive director of the free expression group Article 19, told VOA.
The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz lambasted the regulations in an editorial over the weekend, saying, “The state should not be authorized to decide for the public which information it can be exposed to, as is done in countries such as China and Iran.”