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Gaza reporter: 'My brother's body was in pieces in front of me'

Maryam Abu Daqqa, a local journalist in Gaza Strip, recounts reporting on the Israeli attack that killed her brother.

Maryam Abu Daqqa, centre

For journalist Maryam Abu Daqqa, it was another day at work covering the protests near the Israeli fence, in the Gaza Strip's east.

Since March 30, the 24-year-old reporter for the local Sharq news agency had been documenting the weekly Great March Return demonstrations calling for the right of return of refugees to the areas they were expelled from in 1948.

As Palestinians on Friday renewed their protests, Israel launched dozens of air raids and tank fire against what it said was Hamas positions.

Like any other time of escalation, Abu Daqqa went on air to relay the latest information from the ground. She told viewers that moment before, a heavy artillery shell had struck a monitoring post, causing deaths and injuries.

July 20 violence
A total of four Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on Friday. Three of them, including the 31-year-old and father-of-five Abu Farhana, were members of Hamas' armed wing and targeted by artillery shelling.

The fourth was Mohammed Badwan, 27, who according to the Palestinian ministry of health was shot in the chest and killed during the weekly protests. At least 120 other protesters were wounded.

More than 140 Palestinians have been killed and 16,000 wounded in the 17 weeks of protests.

One Israeli soldier was also killed by a Palestinian gunman on Friday, marking the first Israeli fatality near Israel's fence in Gaza in four years.

"That was all I knew until then," she recounted later.

What she didn't know at the time was that among those killed was her older brother, Mohammed Abu Farhana.

After her live report, Abu Daqqa rushed to the site of the attack to find out more. Blood and body parts were everywhere. Minutes later, details came in with the names of those killed. Upon hearing the name of her brother, Abu Daqqa broke down. Still, she called her TV station colleagues to get the news out.

"I never imagined that I would one day convey the news of a loved one's killing," she told local Palestinian outlet al-Quds Network.

Below, Abu Daqqa narrates to al-Quds Network about the day her brother was killed.

Like every Friday, I went out to cover the protests near the Israeli fence east of Khuza'a, Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. My mother's heart beats faster than normal on these days, as her children (four sons and me) are all out participating in or covering the weekly protests. She checks the names and pictures of those killed or injured on Fridays once the news trickles in, asking God to keep the names of her children away from such lists and news bulletins.

I woke up early on Friday morning, put on my clothes and readied my press equipment. Just before I left, my brother Mohammed told me, as usual: "Maryam, the camera can document things from a distance, so don't get too close to the fence."

Every Friday when the events escalate, I go on air to relay what is happening, which is part of my duty. That day I called my colleague in the news studio, and told him and the viewers that a heavy artillery shell had targeted a monitoring post belonging to the Palestinian resistance east of Khuza'a. There were body parts and injuries but that was all I knew until then. I hung up and rushed to the site in order to find out more about the casualties.

Once I reached the site of attack, I told my other colleague with me that something felt wrong. I saw body parts and blood seeping into the ground as a result of the shelling. At that point I still didn't know who the killed were nor did I recognise anyone. I wish it had remained that way, but now I know the pain and anguish that a relative of someone killed goes through. My brother's remains were lying in pieces in front of me, and I didn't know.

Once the names of those killed were confirmed a few minutes later, I broke down and put down my camera. I called my colleague in the newsroom and told him that my brother was among those killed. I never imagined that I would one day convey the news of a loved one's killing.

The irony is that I was afraid for my other brother, who is a first responder and treats the wounded at the protests. Earlier while I was still at the protest, the Israeli soldiers had fired a barrage of bullets at the peaceful demonstrators and I saw my brother quickly rush towards them to carry out his duties. I remember praying then, hoping he would not be harmed.

My father's health is deteriorating as a little while ago he underwent a kidney transplant. I tried hard to lessen the blow for him when it came to telling him his son was killed.

This will not deter me from continuing doing my job. I will return to the field with more strength.

My brother Mohammed finished high school and starting working after that with a trader in distributing school and office stationery. Then he had the means to become a merchant and manage his own business in the same field.

He was the source of joy in our lives. Every morning and evening he would joke around, and he was considered the comedian at home. He also provided us with anything we wanted, sometimes without us asking him to.

My brother's keenness on having a say in the matters of the lives of me and my siblings was present in every detail … for example it was he who chose my camera for work. I now see this as a strong incentive to continue my work in memory of him.


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