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Israel-Hamas war: Outburst on live TV from Gaza over reporter’s death encapsulates collective grief

Isabel Debre and Najib Jobain / AP,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Nov 2023, 1:55PM

Israel-Hamas war: Outburst on live TV from Gaza over reporter’s death encapsulates collective grief

Isabel Debre and Najib Jobain / AP,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Nov 2023, 1:55PM

A journalist for Palestine TV has given a heartbreaking on-air report after news broke that his fellow correspondent was killed minutes earlier in an Israeli airstrike. 

The outburst of grief by TV correspondent Salman al-Bashir seemed to channel the mood of all Gaza. 

From the crowded halls of Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip late Thursday, al-Bashir was reporting on the waves of wounded and dead Palestinians arriving from Israel’s heavy bombardment on the southern strip. 

One of the victims, loaded into the hospital morgue with 10 of his family members, was his own colleague, veteran Palestine TV correspondent Mohammed Abu Hatab, 49. A mere hour earlier, Abu Hatab had delivered a live report on the Israel-Hamas war’s casualties from that very location for Palestine TV, a network owned by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ political rival. 

Searching for words to describe what Abu Hatab’s loss meant to him and to the network, al-Bashir cracked with emotion. He broke down, his voice holding sorrow and weariness in gruff, pleading phrases. 

“We cant take it anymore, we are exhausted,” al-Bashir said. “We are going to be killed. One by one.” 

The Ramallah-based anchorwoman on the split screen began to weep. 

“We are the victims, martyrs. It’s just a matter of time. We are passing one after another and no one looks at us, nor at the magnitude of the tragedy and crime that we are living in Gaza. 

“There is no international protection at all. There is no protection for anything.” 

Al-Bashir was flushed, pacing backward as he said the world was ignoring the war’s staggering toll on Gaza civilians. 

“No one is looking at us or the extent of this disaster or the crimes that we are experiencing in Gaza,” he said. 

Still holding his microphone, he slid off his flak jacket marked with the word PRESS and unstrapped his helmet. 

“These protection jackets and helmets don’t protect us,” he said, flinging the equipment to the ground. “Nothing protects journalists ... We lose our lives for no reason.” 

His words, streamed live by Palestine TV, ricocheted around social media. 

Since the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, the Israeli military’s retaliation has killed over 9000 Palestinians and wounded thousands more, says the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. Among them have been 31 journalists and media workers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog. The Health Ministry reported that over 112 doctors and medics are also among the dead. Hamas militants killed more than 1400 people in Israel on October 7, most of them civilians. 

At 8.30pm Thursday, after signing off from a live report on Gaza’s soaring death toll, Abu Hatab headed to his nearby home in Khan Younis where he lived with his wife, six children, brother and brother’s family, his colleagues said. 

On his way, he spoke to the Palestine TV bureau chief, Rafat Tidra. 

“He was live on air the whole time covering Khan Younis, his city, his people, simple people,” said Nasser Abu Bakr, the head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and Abu Hatab’s long-time friend. 

Abu Bakr was unsettled after their final phone conversation the night before his death. He said Abu Hatab sounded weary and depressed. 

“He told me, ‘Everything is terrible. ‘I don’t know when I will be killed,’” Abu Bakr recalled. 

Before hanging up, he said, Abu Hatab had one last request: “Please, please, pray that God protects us.” 

- AP

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