‘I want to tell the world’: the reporter determined to share Gaza’s stories

As journalists’ deaths mount amid the blasts, Al Jazeera anchor Jamileh Tawfiq is one of the few media voices left in the strip

21 October 2023// The Guardian

The rocket hit in the early hours of Monday morning, not far from where Jamileh Tawfiq had been sheltering with her family – as well as about 25,000 other people – at a UN compound in the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

The impact saw a plume of smoke rise into the air; news soon came that two families had been killed.

For Tawfiq, a 26-year-old freelance journalist reporting for the television station Al Jazeera, and now one of the few voices still coming out of Gaza, the attack was one of dozens she has witnessed – and reported on – since Israel started bombing the coastal enclave two weeks ago. Nearly 4,000 people have been killed here so far, and another 13,000 injured, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate says 17 media workers have been killed in Gaza since the airstrikes began, with 20 more injured. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 21 have died in total as of Friday morning, with three Israeli reporters dead and a Reuters journalist killed in southern Lebanon.

There is no way out of Gaza, no open border – not for Tawfiq, not for journalists, not for anyone.

“The explosions are relentless,” she says, explaining that she was trying to continue her work as a television news anchor but limited internet and frequent attacks made her work difficult.

“No one knows what is going to happen next. It feels as if they are trying to control our fates; they even made us leave our homes, not knowing if we can ever return. We’re trying to stay alive, but we don’t have hope any more.

“We are destroyed from the inside, and even if this ends, I don’t think life will ever be normal again. That’s one of the reasons I want to keep reporting – I want people to understand.”

Israel’s bombing campaign is a response to a Hamas attack on 7 October that killed at least 1,400 people and injured 3,800 in Israel, while at least 200 people were kidnapped, authorities say. The Israeli air force said it had since dropped thousands of bombs targeting Hamas.

Even for those living under rocket fire, the decision to evacuate to southern Gaza has not been easy. For Tawfiq, leaving the family home in central Gaza to move south – alongside her parents, brother, sister-in-law and nieces – was fraught.