Motaz Azaiza evacuates Gaza after 108 days under Israeli siege
Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza evacuated from Gaza on Tuesday for Gaza, after surviving 108 days of Israeli military onslaught on the territory.
The 24-year-old had documented the destruction wreaked upon his home city since the beginning of Israel’s latest war on Gaza in October.
On Tuesday, he posted an emotional video on Instagram, explaining his decision to leave Gaza, where journalists have been frequent targets of Israeli drones and war planes.
"This is the last time you will see me with this heavy, stinky [press] vest. I decided to evacuate today," he said.
"Hopefully soon I’ll jump back and help to build Gaza again," he added.
Azaiza revealed that he will be travelling to Qatar.
Azaiza has become one of the most prominent voices from Gaza on social media, delivering regular English-language news updates to his 18 million followers on Instagram, showing the destruction wreaked on the territory.
Before October, Azaiza had just 25,000 followers on Instagram, when he documented everyday life in the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Over the last three months, his shocking and heart-wrenching images have given people across the world an unfiltered view of Israel's war on Gaza, where well over 25,000 people are believed to have been killed.
Amid the more horrific and sombre reports were glimpses of the resilience of Gazans: sharing meals, playing football, and going to the beach.
Azaiza often shared his personal thoughts, expressing the devastating physical and mental toll the three-month war had taken on him.
"All this pressure on my mental health will make me pay a lot in the future," Azaiza wrote on X in December.
His announcement on Tuesday was followed by an outpouring of support from followers on social media.
Motaz Azaiza did more and risked more to save Palestinian lives than the epics of the world hold humanly possible. Him, like the other on-the-ground citizens, intentionally stepped into Israel's journalist-targeting crosshairs to give social media eyes on Israel's genocide. https://t.co/OfELdDCG04— Rami Ismail / رامي (@tha_rami) January 23, 2024
"Motaz single handedly changed the way the world saw Gaza. he opened so many eyes to the horrors the Palestinian people face every single day," wrote one X user.
Azaiza's work has been recognised internationally, with TRT World Citizen naming Azaiza as its 2024 'Communicator Awardee' on Saturday.
GQ Middle East featured him as their 2023 ‘Man Of The Year’ in November.
Despite the accolades and international recognition, this did little to mitigate the real risks faced by Motaz and other Palestinian journalists on the ground.
Israel has killed at least 119 journalists in Gaza since 7 October – amounting to more than one journalist a day, according to the International Federation of Journalists.
Others, such as The New Arab's Gaza journalist Diaa Al-Kahlout, have been detained and subject to humiliating treatment and torture by Israeli forces.
During the course of his reporting, Aziaza received several threats from unknown Israeli telephone numbers.
Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh, who survived Israeli airstrikes and the killing of close family, has also headed to Qatar via Egypt to be treated for his injuries