In the heart of the Gaza Strip, amidst the devastating conflict between Israel and Hamas, Tareq Hajjaj fights to report the truth and keep his family safe. As a correspondent for Mondoweiss, a renowned news and opinion website, Hajjaj has faced unimaginable challenges to share stories from the region and shed light on the reality faced by Palestinians living in Gaza.
Every day, Hajjaj puts his life on the line to share the untold stories of his people. With a 10-month-old son and a large extended family to care for, his responsibility goes beyond journalistic duty. Hajjaj has been a news writer and translator since 2015, dedicating his career to amplifying the voices of his community.
Tragically, more than 13,000 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza and the West Bank since the start of the war on October 7. Among the casualties are 48 journalists and media workers, including Hajjaj, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate reports an even higher number, with at least 53 Palestinian journalists killed. The toll on these dedicated individuals is immeasurable.
International news organizations have gradually reduced their presence in Gaza since Hamas’ takeover in 2007. The dangers faced not only from Israel’s forces but also from Hamas repression have led to the closure of bureaus and withdrawal of reporters from the area. As a consequence, information from Gaza has become increasingly scarce.
In the midst of disrupted communication lines, Hajjaj strives to report under apocalyptic conditions while ensuring the safety of his loved ones. Through his work, he vividly captures the horrors of collapsing buildings, the loss of innocent lives, and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness. His reports mix personal accounts with professional journalism to paint a haunting picture of life in Gaza.
With limited access to the internet and phone connections, Hajjaj has resorted to recording videos on his phone to document his experiences. In one video, he shares a heartbreaking scene where his own mother, in a state of panic, asks if they had died. His response, “Not yet, mom, not yet,” illustrates the constant danger they face.
Hajjaj and his family were forced to evacuate their home in Gaza City and seek refuge in Khan Younis. They joined the 1.5 million internally displaced people in Gaza, fleeing from the relentless attacks. Their new location, the European Hospital in eastern Khan Younis, poses its own risks, yet they remain there to be close to their extended family.
Life in Gaza becomes increasingly challenging each day. Basic necessities like food and water are luxuries that many struggle to obtain. Long queues form outside bakeries, with thousands waiting for hours just to feed their families. Water scarcity adds to their desperation, making access to this vital resource nearly impossible.
Hajjaj’s dedication to his work has taken a toll on his own safety. To evade the Israeli drones and air force, he no longer wears his press uniform while reporting in the field. The fear of becoming a target outweighs the need to be identified as a journalist. It is a daily battle between fulfilling his responsibilities and protecting himself from further harm.
While Israel refutes claims of deliberately targeting journalists and civilians, the ongoing loss of lives and the pattern of journalist killings paint a different picture. A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists titled “Deadly Pattern” highlights the routine dismissal of evidence and witness claims, leaving families and colleagues of those killed in despair.
Hajjaj’s commitment to his family and his duty as a journalist creates a constant tug of war. Struggling to balance both responsibilities, he finds himself torn between staying at home to protect his loved ones and venturing out to report on the dire situation in Gaza. Yet, despite the hardships, he persists in bringing the stories of his people to the forefront.
As the conflict continues to escalate in Gaza, journalists like Tareq Hajjaj exemplify the bravery and resilience of those who seek to shed light on the truth. Their commitment to reporting amidst chaos and adversity serves as a testament to the power of journalism in holding the world accountable.