An Israeli air strike killed the family of a news station’s Gaza bureau chief, Wael Al-Dahdouh — a devastating reality that Dahdouh learned on-air while reporting on the Israel-Hamas war.
“The Al Jazeera Media Network extends its sincere condolences and sympathy to our colleague Wael Al-Dahdouh on the loss of his family in an Israeli airstrike,” the Qatari funded channel said in a statement.
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It added that it is “deeply concerned about the safety, and well-being of our colleagues in Gaza and hold the Israeli authorities responsible for their security.”
It has been exceptionally challenging for news organisations to obtain accurate, real-time information to independently verify incidents during the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces told CNN Wednesday night: “Regarding this specific case, the IDF targeted Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the area.”
Regardless of the cause, the deaths of Dahdouh’s wife, daughter, son, and grandson underscore the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza as innocent civilians find themselves caught in the middle of a brutal war between Israel and Hamas.
Like many others, Dahdouh’s family was reportedly sheltering in a refugee camp when a blast reduced a house on the property to rubble.
The distraught look on Dahdouh’s face as he walked into the morgue on Wednesday to view the bodies of his family — a heart-wrenching moment broadcast by Al Jazeera to the world — was reflective of what scores of Gaza residents have been going through as Israel carries out air strikes in retaliation for Hamas’ attack on the Jewish state earlier this month.
More than 7000 of people living in Gaza have lost their lives since the onset of the war, according to Gaza’s Hamas run health ministry.
Dahdouh, overcome with emotion, was seen kneeling before the body of his 15-year-old son, Mahmoud, who Al Jazeera reported had hoped to grow up to become a journalist like his father.
Additional footage showed the shattered father holding the body of his seven-year-old daughter.
Dahdouh’s visible pain, and unimaginable grief, offered the world a glimpse of the horrors taking place each day in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict.
While some Western news organisations do have producers and freelancers in Gaza, there are no US anchors or correspondents on the ground inside the narrow and densely populated strip that millions call home.
As a result, global audiences most often see sanitised video of the air strikes from afar, not the immense human suffering that those strikes give way to.
Dahdouh was back on the ground, reporting the day after his family were killed.
He told Al Jazeera: “We went through the most horrific night, then we laid them to rest.
“I buried them together with my own hands in a mass grave that was almost impossible to find because of the situation right now,” he said.
Al Jazeera correspondent, Youmna Elsayed, described Dahdouh as a “big brother” type figure in the bureau, stressing to that he was committed to staying in the region and reporting on the war.
“He didn’t leave Gaza City,” Elsayed said.
“He stayed despite all the threats and warnings and didn’t stop for 19 days in a row. He said, ‘I must be here in Gaza City to report about these people who are getting bombed every day.’”
“He didn’t give up on them,” Elsayed added.
“He didn’t want to leave.”
Advocacy groups condemned the death of Al Dahdouh’s family members on Wednesday. The International Press Institute (IPI) called it “horrifying and outrageous news,” in a statement. “We condemn the killing of civilians and offer our deepest condolences to Wael Dahdouh.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 24 journalists have died since the start of this conflict as of Wednesday. Twenty of those killed are Palestinian, three are Israeli, and one is a Lebanese journalist, CPJ said.
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