The cameraman who bled to death in Gaza

Samer Abu Daqqa

Friday 15 December will be remembered as another black day for the Palestinian people. The killing of Samer Abu Daqqa by Israeli forces is another nail in the coffin of freedom from occupation and free speech.

Ever since the war on Gaza started a few days after 7 October, the Israeli military has been targeting Palestinian journalists and seeking to muzzle their words and reporting. Abu Daqqa, a cameraman for the Arabic Al Jazeera becomes journalist no 89 to have been targeted and killed by the Israeli big guns and sophisticated gadgetry.

He was killed on day 70 of Israel’s war on Gaza when its army continued bombarding the Strip, day and night. By late November, Israel dropped 40,000 tons of explosives on different parts of Gaza and it continues to do so till today.


For him, Friday 15 September proved to be a fateful day, an end to a career long dedicated to the Palestinian cause and revealing oppression experienced by the people of Gaza under Israeli occupation and siege imposed since 2007.

On that day, together with his colleague Wael Al Dahdouh, Al Jazeera’s Gaza Bureau Chief, were in the field covering the Israeli military strikes of the Farhanah UNRWA school in the vicinity of Khan Younis.

Israeli warplanes were striking at the school, beginning Friday early morning, telling the displaced people there to move further south to the city of Rafah on the border of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. This had been the policy of the Israeli military ever since they unleashed their war on Gaza of ordering people first, from the north of Gaza, to move to the south.

An Israeli drone

They were returning to the school having been in an ambulance that was struck by an Israeli drone having been given permission to transport people whose house had just been bombed.

But suddenly, and according to reports an Israeli reconnaissance drone appeared, armed with missiles and targeted the ambulance that reached the school. Both Al Dahdouh and Abu Daqqa were hit by shrapnel’s and injured, chaos ensued, people around started running asunder and the two got separated.

Al Dahdouh retreated quickly out of the area; Al Duqqa couldn’t, he was too badly hurt and stayed laying on the ground bleeding with the other civilians.

They were besieged by more Israeli firepower and warplanes and were stuck in the school. At that moment any human movement would be fatal, thuds from above continued and the cameraman stayed helpless on the ground whiles hemorrhaging.

Meanwhile, Al Dahdouh said he walked for at least 10 minutes – hundreds of meters – before a rescue teams got to him. He was struck in the arm and abdomen and in great pain. He told them about rescuing his friend but after intense firepower, they told him it would be better to get him to the hospital and send another ambulance for his colleague.

Meanwhile, and caught on camera, he was beseeching the doctors and nurses to get to Al Duqqa through the Red Cross. He said the man was laying in the courtyard of the school bleeding profusely, it was imperative that help be sent, not only for him but the rest of the displaced people also hurt.

And so, the long waiting begun while the channels of communications wired, trying to persuade the Israeli politicians, their military people and air force to send an ambulance to rescue the bleeding man in the middle of the school ground.

According to the Israelis, the area was already declared a military zone which meant the are was under bombardment. The chains of command moved painfully slow. Who to contact, which to contact, who has the ability to make the decision, all these issues took around five hours to sort out.

In the end an ambulance was given permission to enter the area but had to move slowly. The anti-climaxes continued, it was a long drive, for such a short period to the Nasser Hospital. The ambulance had to turn back because the road was potholed with craters from bombs and missiles.

It was then that Samer Al Duqqa, a long-dedicated hero to the word and the image said goodbye to the world and declared dead. He last breath was on the ground of the school because of Israeli military-bureaucratic wrangles who didn’t care which Palestinians they killed and/or maimed.

After all, they had been bombing and missiling Gaza for the last 70 days non-stop with the number of those killed at over 18,000 not to say anything about the injured at over 50,000 as well as the thousands –estimated at 7000 – under the rubble and waiting for burials.

The cameraman’s life was dedicated, working for Al Jazeera since 2004. In 2021 his hand was injured during similar Israeli strikes on Gaza but insisted on continuing to work in the field, although he was offered a job by the station in its Belgium office where his family lives.

Al Duqqa was quoted as saying that, during this latest onslaught, he slept for less three hours a day but it was enough for him to continue coverage of the merciless war.

Annoyed

The Israelis are annoyed with Al Jazeera as they long made that clear to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken who conveyed the message to the Qataris who own the satellite station during his frequent trips to the region. But Al Jazeera wouldn’t relent.

On 25 October, Al Dahdouh’s family were targeted. For safe reasons, not that there is really any safe place in Gaza, his family moved to the Al Nuseirat camp – one of eight refugee camps in the 365-kilometer enclave – but they were targeted. His wife was killed so was his son, daughter and grandbaby.

In early December, Israeli warplanes targeted the family of two Al Jazeera correspondents. First, it was Momen Al Sharafi, his father, mother and 20 of his relatives were killed in an Israeli strike. As well, and in a separate attack days later, the 65-year-old father of Anas Al-Sharif was also killed in the Jabalia refugee camp which had been the subject of untense Israeli bombing.

This is not to say anything about the other local journalist who are constantly at the end of the Israeli barrel. Their lives continue to be in danger so long as the war on Gaza continues, and the bombing is likely to be longer than expected with talk now of “precision targeting” as a new phase and as conveyed to the Americans who seem to take that as winding down the conflict.

Marwan Asmar is a journalist from Amman, Jordan

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