Gaza War : My fight to keep my family safe while I covered the war


Photo : BBC

,- Reporting from the Gaza War for almost three months, Adnan El-Bursh endured hardships including living in a tent, getting by on one meal a day, and fearing for the safety of his wife and five children. He talks about the difficulties and emotional toll of reporting a conflict that stretched him to the breaking point as a BBC Arabic reporter.

Warning: Some readers may find disturbing the descriptions and pictures in this report.

One of the worst times I've had in the last six months was the night my family and I spent sleeping on the street. Seeing my wife and kids bundled up in the icy Khan Younis, southern Gaza, I felt completely powerless.

Next to my wife Zaynab, on the pavement were my 19-year-old twins Zakia and Batoul, my daughters Yumna (14) and Razan (5), and my son Mohamed (8). Desperation and terror were palpable as drones and mortars reverberated through the night.

Although we had located a temporary flat to rent, the Israeli military had warned the landlord that the building would be bombed. My family snatched up whatever they could carry and ran for safety, eventually arriving at the offices of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

My brother and I talked about our alternatives that evening as we attempted to sleep in the middle of the mayhem and uncertainty. Days before, the Israeli soldiers had told us to evacuate south for safety, so we had left our Jabalia house. Yet we were in peril once more, even at the place we had been told to go.

My family finally took sanctuary in a Nuseirat flat, but I stayed with the BBC crew, sleeping in a tent at Khan Younis' Nasser Hospital. Despite the appalling living circumstances—there was little food and few facilities—we persisted in our effort to tell the truth in the middle of the fighting.

Keeping in touch with my family was made tough by the sporadic phone and internet connections. Some days I went for long stretches of time without hearing from them, which made the ongoing worry and stress of being apart from them worse.

Tragically, my buddy and chief of the Al Jazeera bureau Wael Al-Dahdouh lost his entire family in an Israeli airstrike during this period. Reporting about the battle was doubly emotionally taxing because of the agony of seeing his loss and anguish.

Though I have spent fifteen years covering Gazan battles, this war was unlike any other. There were thousands of fatalities and entire communities left in ruins, a level of devastation and loss never seen before.

The situation soon worsened on October 7th when Hamas broke through the border into Israel, setting up a bloody reaction from Israel. The unrelenting shelling and airstrikes severely damaged lives and tore up families.

I still clearly recall the time I came dangerously close to death in Jabalia when a market I had been at a few minutes before was bombed. There were unthinkable casualties and immediate destruction of livelihoods.

The people of Gaza showed an amazing tenacity in the face of mayhem and devastation. Like me, families were compelled to leave their houses and everything they had worked for in quest of safety and shelter.

Making the choice to move out of my house and live with my family in Khan Younis was a sea change for me. With bombs and airstrikes aimed at adjacent towns, the trip south was dangerous, but we persisted in the hopes of seeing our loved ones again.

Still, the possibility of violence was very real even in Khan Younis. Orders by the Israeli military to evacuate portions of the city only made people feel more uneasy and afraid as families were once more compelled to flee for their life.

The cost of the fighting to Gaza's civilians was becoming more and more obvious. A sobering reminder of the human tragedy playing out in Gaza were the mass graves, the broken families, and the innumerable lives killed.

I was resolute to keep reporting, to witness to my people's suffering, and to make sure their voices were heard in spite of the obstacles and difficulties. And although leaving Gaza was only a brief respite, I will always have the memories of those terrifying months.


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