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Gaza journalist went to get food for starving family, returned to see them killed

By Humaira Ahad

On February 28, young Palestinian journalist Motasem Dalloul took a short break from his reporting to fetch food for his pregnant wife and little children, who were starving.

When Dalloul came back, he saw them lying under the rubble. They were killed in an Israeli bombing of a residential compound in Yafa Street, Gaza City.

“To Allah we belong and to Him we return My pregnant wife, Rahim, and my 3-year-old son, Abu Baker, have been Killed along with 20 other people in the Israeli bombing of a residential compound in Yafa Street, in the city of Gaza,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter.

The graphic picture of the lifeless bodies of the duo was attached to the post, which drew anger and outrage from netizens over the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

Journalists in the besieged coastal strip have borne the brunt of the Israeli genocidal war since October 7, with more than 130 scribes killed by the occupying regime so far.

However, more tragically, Gaza-based journalists have also lost their families and houses in what human rights activists believe are deliberate attacks to muzzle their voices.

The death toll in Gaza has already surpassed the mark of 30,000, most of them children and women. Earlier this week, more than 100 people were killed after regime forces and tanks opened fire on a large crowd of people who were queuing up to collect aid.

This starvation that Palestinians in Gaza are facing separated Dalloul from his family.

Dalloul went out to search for some food for his hungry wife and kids. He came back to see the house where the family had sought refuge bombed by the apartheid regime.

“At night, she told me she was hungry. I said: I had nothing to do except risking my life to get some aid. She begged me not to go, but I insisted. I LOVED her too much. I LOVED her more than my soul,” he wrote in a post on X, overwhelmed by emotions.

“I went there and succeeded in getting flour and I was happy that she would eat with my little kids. Before I reached them, I was told they were bombed and wounded. I left the flour and rushed to the hospital, found my 6-year-old sim, Asem, wounded and her and my little angel Abu Baker martyred. I got very crazy.” 

Dalloul’s three-year-old son Asem survived the attack and is now recovering from injuries.

In another post, the Palestinian journalist shared a picture of his house, razed to the ground, where his pregnant wife and child were killed.

“Here, from under this rubble, my beloved wife and little angel ascended to Heaven. My heart is completely broken,” he wrote.

UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, has repeatedly stressed that denial of food is a war crime and constitutes a "situation of genocide."

Israel has been intentionally starving Palestinians and should be held accountable for war crimes and genocide, according to the UN’s leading expert on the right to food.

“Intentionally depriving people of food is clearly a war crime. Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian. This is now a situation of genocide. This means…Israel in its entirety is culpable and should be held accountable – not just individuals or this government or that person,” Fakhri said.

A day before Dalloul’s family got killed; the journalist described their plight amid the worsening food situation in the besieged strip due to the crippling siege.

“We are hungry. I got sick after walking more than 20 kilometers every day since the beginning of the week and got nothing.”

“Last night was the worst since the start of the genocide as I was separated from my son. Two of my sons went to try collecting some aid today. I pray for their safety and wish they get something to eat,” he hastened to add, not knowing that the pain of separation would become permanent.

After spending hours in search of food, Dalloul’s sons returned empty-handed,

“Unfortunately, my sons could not get any humanitarian aid! I will go myself and do my best. Pray for me,” he wrote in a separate post.

As per a consensus among hunger experts across the globe, a huge civilian population like that of Palestinians in Gaza has never been starved in such a brief period.

“Israel is not just targeting civilians, it is trying to damn the future of the Palestinian people by harming their children,” Fakhri was quoted as saying.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said 10 children have died of starvation in the besieged strip, pointing to the gravity of the humanitarian catastrophe.

“The official records, yesterday or this morning, said that there was a 10th child officially registered in a hospital as having starved to death,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said.

As per the statistics provided by Project Hope, a health and humanitarian NGO, 21 percent of the pregnant women and 11 percent of the children in Gaza under the age of 5 that were treated by the organization in the last three weeks suffer from malnutrition.

As per a UN report released on February 19, one in six children under the age of 2 is acutely malnourished in the northern part of the coastal strip, “putting young children at highest risk of medical complications and death unless they receive urgent treatment.”

“The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Humanitarian Action and Supply Operations (ASG), Ted Chaiban

“If the conflict doesn’t end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues which will affect the children of Gaza for the rest of their lives and have potential intergenerational consequences,” Chiban added.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court regards intentionally starving a particular civilian population by denying them food, water and shelter as a war crime.

The Geneva Conventions also recognize starvation as a war crime. In 2018, the UN Security Council placed deliberate deprivation of food on the list of war crimes.

Experts say that Israel’s claim of exceptions in war crimes holds no ground. The regime is purposefully destroying the food system, holding humanitarian aid, to let hunger and diseases spread in Gaza.

Meanwhile, a day after losing his wife and son, Dalloul returned to his professional duty.

“Motasem Dalloul continues to cover the ongoing genocide despite losses in his immediate family. If there is any journalist you should be following in Gaza, it's him,” wrote Wad Kosti.

The Gazan journalist asked the world to pray for his children recuperating from injuries and shock of losing their mother and sibling.

“Pray for my son, Asem, who was left without mother, due to Israeli bombing, along with three little daughters: Habiba, 7, Hafsa, 5 and Halima, 2.”

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