On Wednesday morning Israeli airstrikes pounded the Gaza Strip, serving as my alarm clock. After more than 20 straight hours of reporting the day before, I was thankful for the three hours of rest I managed to get.
Gaza erupted into conflict after the Israeli military assassinated an Islamic Jihad militant commander by the name of Baha Abu al-Ata early Tuesday morning. As I write this from a rooftop in Gaza City, rockets are being fired into Israel. Already more than 350 have been launched by Islamic Jihad as Egyptian negotiators desperately work to hammer out a ceasefire agreement.
Our first stop Wednesday morning was the morgue. Overnight, militants from the Fatah Brigades who were fighting alongside Islamic Jihad were killed in Israeli strikes. When we arrived I saw a familiar scene. Relatives and loved ones who had woken up to the news, rushing to the hospital to get a look at the bodies. Needing to confirm what they already knew was true. I saw other militants in tears as they mourned the deaths of their comrades.
One strong-looking young man passed out as he was overcome with grief. You see, those killed were members of Islamic Jihad and if Israel’s assessment is correct: they were planning to fire rockets toward civilians. But they are humans. And human suffering spares no sides in war. Suffering knows nothing of politics. Watching a mother kiss her son goodbye is gut-wrenching, no matter who the people are or where they come from.
After seeing these men carried from the hospital to their respective s mosques, we headed to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City — we got word of an Israel airstrike on a rocket launching crew. Minutes after we arrived, a car pulled up; doctors and bystanders pulled the injured and dead out of the makeshift ambulance. For the next hour, more vehicles would arrive.
Mangled bodies from Israeli airstrikes were rushed into the emergency room. By the end of the day, the death toll since the new round of fighting began would rise to 21 people in Gaza.
Seeing bodies is part of being a war correspondent. It’s something I’ve never gotten used to, though. The smell, the metal gurneys, and the deep emotions. It can be a lot to take in, but I must remain focused. Things change quickly inside Gaza and if I lose my focus, I could lose my life.
Just 24 hours ago a rocket misfired in Gaza. It slammed into the building across from us, spraying shrapnel into our building. The explosion was a wake-up call. As we rushed outside to see what happened, my crew and I looked at each other. We knew that we had narrowly escaped what could’ve been a deadly impact.
As of now, the border is closed and I am the only foreign journalist inside. It does come with a great amount of responsibility. I happened to be in Gaza by chance. I arrived on Friday to cover weekly demonstrations along the border and had planned to return Sunday. But after being given rare permission to cover a Hamas military parade on Monday, I decided to stay.
These are the days we prepare for as correspondents. I’ve covered numerous rounds of violence in the region and I’ve worked hard to develop deep sources inside both Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Now I’m off to finish my package for Special Report with Bret Baier. Catch me live tonight from Gaza City.