Al-Zahhar, a cameraman for al-Quds TV, spoke to The Electronic Intifada and other reporters after his right leg was amputated following an Israeli strike on the Shawa and Hussari press building the night before in the al-Rimal quarter of Gaza City.
Al-Zahhar said that just before the strike, “Some of my colleagues and I were having some rest after a long working day during the Israeli escalation. I wanted to sleep for only an hour, as the situation seemed to be getting sort of calm.”
But the calm was illusory. Israel intensified its attacks on Gaza on Saturday night, bringing the death toll to more than 60 persons with hundreds more injured.
In the single bloodiest incident, an Israeli bomb completely destroyed a two story house of the Dallou family in a residential district of Gaza City, killing 11 persons. Among the dead were five women, including one 80-year-old, and four small children, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.
Journalists were resting when missiles hit
Cameraman al-Zahhar was later reported to have been transferred to an Egyptian hospital for more medical care. His colleagues described the attack on their offices that occurred at about 1:30 in the morning.
“Our apartment on the eleventh floor of the [Shawa and Hussari] building is made up of four rooms. When the air strike happened, I was laying down for a rest along with my colleague Darwish Bulbul in one of the rooms,” said Hussein al-Madhoun, 22, a colleague of al-Zahhar, as he showed the damage from the attack.
After the strike: “We rushed over when we heard the voices of our colleagues in the living room, pleading for help,” he said.
“As Khader and my other colleague Muhammad Khrais were yelling at us for help, we managed to remove some of the rubble on Khader to find him covered in blood. By then, one more rocket hit the same building and we had to pause and then took out both Khader and Muhammad, who was slightly injured,” al-Madhoun added.
“About five to six rockets hit our building,” al-Madhoun said. “I am really surprised to see that we journalists are being attacked. What do they want? Do they want to silence us and stop us telling the truth? No, we will continue our work unabated and will not fear their strikes,” al-Madhoun said.
The Israeli attack on the al-Quds TV offices in the Shawa and Hussari building also hit the office of Iran’s Press TV and that of the Russia Today TV station.
In addition to the attack on the Shawa and Hussari building, which wounded seven people in total, Israeli warplanes bombarded the offices of al-Aqsa TV on the 15th floor of al-Shorouq building.
The floor was extensively damaged, and three journalists working for Palestine Media Production, whose office is located on the 14th floor, were wounded, according to a release from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights today (“Ongoing Israeli Offensive on Gaza: Palestinian Civilian Deaths Rise to 27…”).
Journalists won’t back down
“Harming us will not make us back down from our important mission, spreading facts here as far and wide as we can,” said Samir Khalifa, a correspondent of the Palestinian Authority-run Palestine TV in Gaza.
“Israeli attacks on journalists mean that we have so far succeeded in uncovering Israeli crimes against the civilian population of Gaza; therefore, we are not going to stop,” Khalifa said at the al-Shifa hospital where he was reporting on the stream of wounded people being brought in.
Another journalist, Wisam Khadra, a producer with a Russian news agency and Russian TV, voiced similar sentiments: “I would like to say outright that we will stay in the field, reporting and reporting until the truth is completely told to the outside world.”
The attack on journalists earlier on Sunday drew widespread condemnation among journalistic bodies across the Gaza Strip. The Gaza-based Government Media Office issued a statement, calling for holding Israel accountable for the latest attack and many others underway in Gaza.
“We have sent letters to concerned media bodies worldwide, including Arab information ministries and the international journalists union and the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. Whatever the Israelis do to silence truth here, the truth should keep being told until Israel is held accountable in international courts of justice,” Salam Marouf, director general of the Government Media office in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada in a phone interview on Sunday.
“Journalists are civilians and are protected under international law in military conflict,” said CPJ Deputy Director, Robert Mahoney in a brief statement on the group’s website on Sunday. “Israel knows this and should cease targeting facilities housing media organizations and journalists immediately.”
Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.