Palestinian journalist Plestia Alaqad flees Gaza: ‘I hope this nightmare ends’

Her social media dispatches offered firsthand accounts of the devastation and growing crisis

Alex Woodward
Wednesday 22 November 2023 19:00
IDF says hostage release is 'step forward'

Plestia Alaqad, a Palestinian journalist whose dispatches from Gaza have provided a rare glimpse of the war to millions of social media followers around the world, has fled Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing bombardments and military siege.

“I traveled yesterday and this was literally one of the hardest decisions that I took,” she wrote in the caption under an Instagram video on Wednesday. “I hope this nightmare ends and I’ll be back in Gaza soon.”

She made the decision to leave for the safety of her family, fearing that her reporting and role as a journalist could put her family’s life in danger, she said.

Speaking in Arabic to her followers, she said she hoped for an end to the war and the return of Gaza citizens to their homes.

Earlier this week, Ms Alaqad said she stopped wearing her blue press vests and helmet, fearing that what she once used to protect her during the crisis has made her a target.

“I don’t feel safe in Gaza no matter what, even while sleeping I don’t feel safe, but especially when wearing [the] press vest and helmet I don’t feel safe,” she wrote. “I hope this nightmare ends soon, I hope we don’t lose anymore journalists.”

At least 53 media workers, including 46 Palestinian journalists, have been killed since 7 October, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, as of 22 November.

Belal Jadallah, considered a giant among Gaza journalists and the director of the nonprofit media group Press House Palestine, was killed and his pharmacist brother-in-law was seriously wounded during an Israeli attack on Sunday, according to his family.

On Monday, two Lebanese journalists were killed during an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon, close to the border with Israel.

Ms Alaqad, who now has nearly 4 million followers on Instagram, is among young Palestinian journalists whose social media posts have provided rare firsthand accounts of the devastation. Within the month after Israel launched its retaliatory campaign, she gained more than 2 million followers.

Her video diaries shared views from her home during airstrikes; sheltering in the dark during blackouts while listening to the sounds of bombs booming in the distance; evacuating her home as it burned; and tours of Gaza revealing the scale of devastation around her.

“The more I walk,” she said in one video as she surveyed collapsed homes and buildings and the rubble around her, “the [more] speechless I get.”

Her often unfiltered overage of Israel’s attacks has shifted a dynamic across world media struggling to capture what is happening in Gaza amid power shortages, blackouts and ongoing bombardments.

Ms Alaqad’s footage, viewed by tens of thousands of people on Instagram, was profiled by NBC News, New York Magazine and The New York Times, which shared her dispatches and images in the days after Israel launched its siege.

“Reporting and posting about what’s happening in Gaza, Palestine feels pointless,” she wrote on the 37th day of Israel’s siege after regaining access to her account. “It feels like I’m posting movie scenes for people to watch, and whenever they get bored they watch something else.”

In her latest video, speaking in Arabic, she told her followers that she feels guilty for leaving and expressed her sorrow for Gaza citizens forced to leave their country to stay alive.

More than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 5,000 children, following Israel’s retaliatory strikes in the wake of Hamas attacks on 7 October that killed 1,200, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day pause in fighting that will allow for the release of at least 50 women and children reportedly held hostage in Gaza, while Hamas announced that the deal will include the release of 150 Palestinian women and teenagers from Israeli prisons.

The pause also is expected to accelerate the flow of desperately needed humanitarian relief, medical aid and fuel into Gaza.

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