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Silencing the truth: Israel targets Gazan media

Silencing the truth: Israel's assault on Gaza's media is a bid to control the narrative
7 min read
As Israel continues its most ferocious assault yet on the trapped people of Gaza, it has also targeted journalists' offices, telecommunications networks and internet services, seemingly to prevent accounts of the mounting atrocities emerging.

Israel is seeking to silence the Palestinian narrative and erase all traces of its crimes committed against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

The bombing of the Gaza Strip is only one-half of its strategy. To control the narrative, the Israeli occupation also targets journalists, mobile networks, telecommunications infrastructure, cutting internet lines, and exacerbating the electricity crisis.

Whilst Gazans had endured these crimes before the current onslaught, the rapidly deteriorating situation has been compounded by the ferociousness of the Israeli attacks. 

Despite efforts by Palestinians to convey developments to the world through real-time on-the-ground coverage of all updates as they happen, they face major obstacles which have contributed to a shortage of information and reports emerging.

Four Palestinian journalists were killed on Tuesday in Israeli air raids which targeted residential apartment blocks in Gaza City, according to state and professional media sources, including the Hajji Tower on Institutions Street, where the journalists' offices were based.

Salama Ma'arouf, head of Gaza's government media office, said in a statement: "We mourn our colleagues Saeed Al-Taweel, Hisham Alnwajha, and Mohammed Subh" who were targeted "by the occupier's planes during their coverage of the evacuation of a residential building threatened with bombing in western Gaza, close to the fishing port".

Saeed Al-Taweel, editor-in-chief of the Al-Khamsa News Agency; Muhammed Sobh was a press photographer and Hisham Al-Nawajeha was a Gaza-based reporter.

"We had warned hours earlier of an intention by occupation forces [to kill journalists] after tens of notifications of evacuations were sent to media organisations," Salama Ma'arouf told Middle East Eye (MEE).

The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate also condemned the "martyrdom of three other journalists in the Gaza Strip in the continuous Israeli aggression". Later on Tuesday, the Palestinian Press Union announced the death of Salam Khalil Mima, head of the Women Journalists' Committee in the union, her husband, and their children.

The group stated that the family's house close to Jabalia camp in the northern area of the Gaza Strip was hit by Israeli shelling. With the death of journalist Mima, the number of journalists killed in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza has risen to eight since Saturday." 

The targeting of journalists is part of Israel's attempts to eliminate the Palestinian narrative as current events unfold, as well as targeting press headquarters, and journalists' homes.

In addition, on Monday evening Israeli warplanes destroyed Jawwal's HQ (Palestine's Cellular Communications Company), and the Palestine Telecommunications Company HQ in the Rimal neighbourhood in central Gaza City, which provides a wide range of internet services.

Prior to the Israeli targeting of Gaza's internet services, Israel disconnected the power lines supplying the Gaza Strip from the Israeli side, leaving Gaza with a 120 megawatt reduction in power, and relying on its sole power station for the remaining 65 megawatts.

This is significantly below Gaza's average electricity need of more than 450 megawatts, prompting the station to quickly implement a new schedule of power cuts and connections, with 4 hours of connection to 24 hours of disconnection. The previous schedule allowed 8 hours of connection and 8 hours of disconnection, which was the best state Gaza's electricity schedule had been since the electricity crisis began 17 years ago when Israel blockaded the Strip.

Tahseen Alasttal, Deputy President of the Palestinian Journalists' Union, says the continuing Israeli actions, both targeting journalists directly, or through targeting the internet and means of communications, aim to isolate Gaza from the world and stop the Palestinian narrative from being capable of revealing the details of the ugly crimes being committed against Palestinian civilians.

Alasttal explained to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, that there is an ongoing Israeli plan to carry out crimes against civilians, and this dovetails with their urgent wish that there won’t be any press coverage, or citizen journalism, or on-the-ground reporting by activists.

This is how the attacks on media crews can be explained, alongside different communications networks, internet services, satellite broadcasting, and electricity, in order to guarantee that the true picture of what's happening won't reach people, and international public opinion won't turn against what Israel is doing and cause pressure to be put on the Israeli government to halt the massacres.

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Alasstal points out that the precise targeting, and the ways Israel is stemming the flow of images and information out of Gaza, have severely hampered activists from their work in documenting many of the developments.

"This is what Israel wants, to control the vast majority of the information and to keep exporting its narrative to the world," he explains.

Israel has killed eight Palestinian journalists in Gaza since Saturday [Getty Images]

Mahmoud Al-Fara, head of public relations in Gaza's media office, explained that the current Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip was unprecedented, and it was working to target all regions: north, south, east and west. At the top of its target list are civilian targets, he says, and families, whose homes have been bombed on top of them without warning. In addition, the crossings have been closed and targeted, petrol has been blocked, as well as other fuels.

He adds that besides directly targeting journalists and activists to silence their voices, the cutting of electricity, internet and mobile phone networks aims to deprive those remaining of the materials they need to carry out their work.

Al-Fara explains that Israel wants to close off access to Gaza so that the attention of the Arab world, and international public opinion won’t be drawn towards the atrocities being committed in terms of war crimes and mass extermination.

The Gaza Press Offices released a statement on 12 October which read: "The Occupation Army [IDF] continues its attempt to distort reality and seeks to change the fact of its crimes being committed against our people, falsely claiming that it is adhering to international humanitarian law […] this misleading and propaganda-spreading behaviour by the occupation will not succeed in hiding the extent of its savagery and its crimes".

Moreover, and on a related note, since the outbreak of the current violent escalation, news outlets have reported the rapid spread of misinformation and fake news, with unsubstantiated claims being shared and amplified despite a lack of verification. 

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The New Arab's Gaza correspondent, Sally Ibrahim, has been trying to leave Gaza City with her relatives as of Friday since Israel ordered over 1 million residents to leave the northern part of Gaza within the next 24 hours, after which Israel is expected to carry out a ground offensive. 

Ibrahim clarified that all local and international media has left Gaza City and the northern parts of the strip and relocated south, meaning that there will be no official coverage possible in the northern part of the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

"People are worried, we cannot even do anything. We are just praying, we are awaiting our fate, and waiting for the new massacres that will be committed by the Israeli army," Ibrahim said.

This is an edited translation with additional reporting. To read the original article click here.

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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