Journalists Under Fire: Haneen al-Qashtan, Gazan radio journalist killed with family

By Humaira Ahad

In the killing fields of Gaza, children do not usually bury their parents but parents lower their deceased children into the grave.

Haneen Ali al-Qashtan prayed for the same. She wanted to die before her mother and father. She didn’t have the strength to witness the death of her parents.

Her wish did come true, but not the way she would have liked.

The death toll of journalists in Gaza since October 7 has risen to 117 so far, including female journalists who have been deliberately targeted by the Israeli regime in order to silence their voices and prevent them from laying bare the savagery of the regime in Gaza.

The young Palestinian journalist was killed with her family members on December 17 when an Israeli airstrike targeted their family home in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

“Oh Lord, let me be the first one in my family to die, so I will not have to endure the pain of their death,” al Qashtan wrote on Facebook.

Al Qashtan had confided the biggest fear of her life to her friend: “I don’t want to see them (parents) dead, I don’t want to bear the pain of losing them”, her friend Faryal Muhammad was quoted as saying by the Palestine Chronicle.

The Palestinian journalist was deeply attached to her family. She would often talk fondly about them to her friends and co-workers.

“She tried her best to support her father, who was crippled by illness, and she told me about him repeatedly. Her dream was to buy him a new wheelchair,” wrote Maryam Mashtawi, Lebanon-based journalist, in a tribute to al Qashtan.

The 34-year-old journalist’s dream of bringing a smile to her father’s face by buying him a wheelchair was crushed when the Israeli forces killed al Qashtan along with her parents, her sister Linda, and her brothers Atef and Shadi, leaving behind a sister as the lone survivor of the family.

“I am very strong, but not strong enough to go through the whole night alone, as we see death several times every night,” al Qashtan wrote in a post on her Facebook account a few hours before her death.

“My sister Haneen has always been afraid of the violent Israeli bombing and she wished the war could end soon, but she left this world before her wish came true,” al Qashtan’s surviving sister said.

Despite the unending horror, the Palestinian journalist was determined not to leave her home and abandon her family. A colleague offered her a place in Rafah but she refused.

“She thanked him for his concern but insisted that she would not leave her home even if she had to die there,” her sister recalled.

Al Qashtan continued reporting the atrocities committed by the occupying regime until a few hours before her death.

She has gained respect and fame for her work with an FM radio station in Gaza.

In the past, she worked for several news organizations, including the Sawt Al Watan Radio, the Baladna media channel and also the Ahwal Al-Bilad website.

Mashtawi described al Qashtanas as “gentle, kind, pure, calm, noble and very loving”.

“She wanted to write a novel narrating the details of her life. We discussed the idea of ​​the novel, but she decided to postpone writing it. She was an impulsive journalist who loved Palestine,” Mashtawi said about her friend.

Since October 7, when the Israeli regime launched its genocidal war on Gaza, al Qashtan used her Facebook page to give vent to her fears.

“I wish night doesn’t descend over Gaza, this is the worst long night,” she wrote in one of her posts, presenting the picture of horror unfolding in Gaza amid the relentless Israeli bombings.

A few days before being killed, al Qashtan told her sister that the continuous bombings by the occupation forces had created unprecedented anxiety in her and she was undergoing severe trauma. She had expressed her wish to seek immediate psychological therapy after the war. 

“A few days before she was killed, she told me that she needed at least one year of therapy to overcome the trauma,” al Qashtan’s sister said.

Even before the start of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza, the Palestinian population had been suffering from severe psychological ailments. The violence committed by Israel in various forms including multiple wars, almost a two-decade-long blockade, continuous harassment, military raids, etc. have adversely affected the mental health of the vast majority of the population in Gaza.

As per a 2022 report, four out of five children in the coastal territory were suffering from depression, grief, and fear. About 85 percent of children, teenagers and caregivers in Gaza were undergoing some sort of mental health issues.

A 2023 report by the World Bank confirmed that 71 percent of the population in the besieged strip showed symptoms associated with depression.

As per health experts the ongoing brutal war on Gaza has exacerbated mental health issues and the trauma will inadvertently be passed to further generations.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku