Distraught, Palestine TV counts colleagues killed in bombings

Distraught, but determined to continue reporting, the journalists of the public channel Palestine TV are counting the deaths, including those of their colleagues, caused by the Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip.

The latest was Mohamed Abu Hatab, a well-known journalist after 20 years on screen, whose house was “deliberately” attacked by Israeli forces.

“Israel targeted his house, there was a direct impact on his house,” Mohamed Bargouti, news director of Palestine TV, told EFE from its headquarters in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital in the West Bank.

According to him, “there is no rule that protects” reporters in Gaza.

33 journalists have already died in just over a month of the Israeli offensive, which has left more than 10,300 dead in the enclave.

Since the war between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas began on Oct. 7, four employees of the channel, which has a staff of 1,000 – 400 in the West Bank and 600 in Gaza – have died in the enclave.

One worked as a driver and two others in administration, but the death that had the most impact was that of Abu Hatab, a familiar face to Palestinians as he broadcasted daily updates on events in Gaza.

“There is no international protection, these vests and helmets are just slogans that we wear, they do not protect any journalist,” said an emotion-stricken Salman al Bashir on Thursday after learning live on Palestine TV of his colleague Abu Hatab’s death.

“Here we are victims, losing our lives one after the other without any cost, waiting for our turn,” he denounced on camera at Naser Hospital in southern Gaza, where Abu Hatab had been reporting just half an hour before.

Hatab then went to his home in the town of Khan Yunis, where he was killed in a bombing, along with 10 members of his family, including his six children, his wife and his brother.

According to Bargouti, the attack shows how reporters from the enclave “are targets for Israel.”

When contacted by EFE, the Israeli army did not respond to this accusation, assuring that it is “investigating” what happened.

Living among cameras, sets, writing, editing and sound rooms in Ramallah, reporters for Palestine TV, funded by the Palestinian Authority, are accustomed to violence after years of conflict.

They feel they have paid a high price over the decades, but the Gaza war has pushed them over the edge.

“Twenty years ago, Israel blew up the headquarters of Palestine TV in Gaza and Ramallah, and 20 of our colleagues have died since then,” says Bargouti, who criticizes Israel’s coercion of the station, which is no longer allowed to operate openly in East Jerusalem.

Now the situation is extreme for the 400 employees in the Strip.

“We have received threats from Israel, which has ordered the evacuation of the Palestinian TV headquarters in Gaza City,” adds Bargouti, who also denounces that the homes of more than 10 employees have been destroyed.

Many of the station’s staff were also displaced to the south, “but they continue to work from there all the time,” although many have taken refuge in overcrowded schools, mosques, hospitals or churches.

“They want to tell the world what is happening in Gaza, they are not working for their salary,” says the news director.

In all, 38 journalists have been killed in this conflict throughout the region. In addition to the 33 from Gaza, four others died in Israel and one in Lebanon, making this month “the deadliest for reporters since 1992,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

But it is in Gaza that they are paying the highest price. After Abu Hatab’s death, two other well-known reporters died in similar ways.

Mohamed Al Jaja, a journalist with the Palestinian Press House – a key institution promoting local journalism in Gaza – was killed along with his wife and two daughters in an airstrike on their home.

On Tuesday, Mohamed Abu Hasira, an employee of the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, died in a bombing in his house that killed 42 other members of his family, further proof that journalists are in the same situation as civilians in Gaza, where no one is immune to constant attacks.

By Usmana Kousar