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Israel-Palestine war: I used to cry for other people's children. Now I cry for my own

Israel bombed my family's home in Gaza without warning, killing them as they slept
Palestinian cameraman Mohammed Alaloul mourns over the body of his son killed in an Israeli strike on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, at the al-Quds hospital in the same city on 5 November 2023 (AFP)

I am a photojournalist. I was born in February 1987, got married in 2009, and had my firstborn son, Ahmad, the following year. Several more children followed: Rahaf in 2012, Kanan in 2017 and Qais in 2019. Thank God I had Adam in November 2022; he is the only one who has survived.

I went to university and followed my dream to become a journalist. I wore the vest and reported from the field, covering wars and the Great March of Return. But I could never have imagined what was to come in the current war.

I could never have imagined, even in my worst nightmares, that my own house would be bombed; that I could lose my young brothers, my sister, my children, my nephews - all of them, just like that. 

We used to share dreams and memories. In an instant, the whole house died.   

My home and family were targeted without any warning or an ounce of mercy. Our home was bombed heavily.  

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When this happened, I was at work. My job often keeps me away from home for days at a time, and when I am home, I am generally exhausted - but at least there was always the comfort of knowing my kids and nephews were around.

They always used to beg me to take care while I was on duty, and not to take any risks. But they were sleeping peacefully in the safety of their home when they were bombarded and killed. 

Heart-stopping news

For years, I went to work, risking my life to take photos and report the news, so that I could feed my kids. Today, I am left with nothing - my home and family have been destroyed. I cannot describe the pain in my heart; there are no words. I feel broken. My heart is broken, my back is broken. Thank God for what remains.

While my house was being bombed, I was conducting interviews with journalists at Nasser Hospital and discussing the mounting dangers of working in Gaza. I had barely finished when I received a call from a friend, asking: “Mohammed, where are you?” 

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I told him I was at work in the field. He then told me that the area near my home was being bombarded. My heart stopped. I swiftly called my wife, brothers and other family members, but no one answered. There was no internet, nothing that could connect me with my family. 

Deep in my heart, I knew that Ahmad was not fine; I felt my son dying

I started calling neighbours and friends, who told me they were having dinner with my brothers. I thanked God, but within moments, the neighbourhood was bombed to rubble.

I lost my mind; I didn’t know what to do. I called colleagues, who tried to reassure me, telling me that my wife was fine, my son Adam was fine, my niece Layan was fine.

Then I started receiving images of my dead family members. The first was of my son Qais. Others soon followed.

I called the local hospital, and they told me that my firstborn son, Ahmad, was going to the emergency room and would be okay. But deep in my heart, I knew that Ahmad was not fine; I felt my son dying.

Becoming the story

I was shocked to see the list of people killed from my family: Atef, Kamal, Ahmed, Sojoud and Razan, with the latter two still buried beneath the rubble of their home. I had to dig with my bare hands to get them out. I buried them after I buried my brothers and sisters.

Mohammed and Jamal, my brothers’ children, and my own children: my son Ahmad, my only daughter Rahaf, Kanan and Qais, in addition to many lifelong friends and neighbours. God has given, and God has taken.

Israel-Palestine war: All I held dear now lies under the rubble
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In the wake of such tragedy, I have lost my passion for life. I am left with nothing but painful memories - and the haunting echo of my children begging me to stop working so I could be safe at home with them. My son Kanan is the last one I saw, and he told me: “I wish you would quit your job and stay here with us, baba.”

I used to cover stories and cry for other people’s children. I was reporting the story, and now I have become the story.

I appeal to every official, to the United Nations, to all people of conscience, to have compassion - to feel our suffering and pain. I call on all institutions and embassies to take immediate action to save us.

What did my children do to deserve to die like this? What did my brothers and my nephews do? What crime did they commit to deserve to die like this - to be bombed at home as they slept? What did I do to deserve the pain of having to search for my family under the rubble?

Where is the international community, the human rights organisations, the major governments? 

These are war crimes. Israel is killing journalists and our families, hoping to break us and prevent us from continuing to report the truth. And I am broken. I have nothing left in Gaza.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Mohammed Alaloul is a camera man, photographer and film maker, living in Gaza.
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