IMAGES of protesters showing support for journalists in Gaza gives those working on the ground hope that there's "still humanity", a Palestinian reporter has said.

It comes after a protest saw nine-year-old Haleema in Glasgow honour the work of journalists in Gaza by wearing improvised press body armour and holding a microphone. The image was viewed millions of times on Twitter/X.

Artist and illustrator Anna Dittmann has also created a mural in Leith as tribute to Bisan Owda, a 25-year-old journalist based in Palestine, who documents Israel's bombardment of Gaza on social media.

The National: Artist and illustrator Anna Dittmann, from Abbeyhill, Edinburgh, works on a mural of Bisan Owda at Quality Yard in LeithArtist and illustrator Anna Dittmann, from Abbeyhill, Edinburgh, works on a mural of Bisan Owda at Quality Yard in Leith (Image: PA)

Support like this in Scotland and around the world is "very touching" according to Shuruq As'ad, who works as a correspondent in Palestine for Dubai TV and MCD Radio Montecarlo, a French-Arabic radio station.

She has been working as a journalist for 30 years, and in that time has been arrested, beaten and shot at while reporting on the reality of life under occupation in Palestine.

Now living in the West Bank, As’ad, a representative of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), spoke about her experience of reporting on the conflict while being under constant attack from the Israeli military.

The need for solidarity from the international community has never been stronger, As’ad told The National, explaining it is this support which gives journalists on the ground hope.

“It’s very highly appreciated, and we count on it a lot," she said of the images from Scotland.

“This actually gives us hope in Palestine, and I’m sure it gives hope to our colleagues in Gaza, that there’s still humanity.”

As’ad said it was “very touching” to see a child in particular showing their support for Palestinian journalists.

The National: Nine-year-old Haleema was honouring the work of journalistsNine-year-old Haleema was honouring the work of journalists (Image: Hassan Ghani)

'It didn't start on October 7'

For Palestinian journalists, life in Gaza and in the West Bank has been increasingly brutal to navigate.

“It has always been hard. It did not only start on October 7, it’s been all the years I have worked,” As’ad told The National.

In 2003, the Israeli military invaded the office As’ad worked at. Now, more than 20 years on, the situation has not changed.

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Every Friday, As’ad reports on demonstrations taking place outside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

“It’s very hard. It’s frightening when I go to cover demonstrations. This was the case before, but after October 7 it’s more and more brutal,” she said.

“There is an escalation on the attacks, an escalation of shooting. They always attack us, though we are together with our TV stickers, helmets, equipment.

“We are usually away from people or any area that can be dangerous, but they still attack us with tear gas and bullets, and even beating some of our colleagues badly.”

The National:

The dangers of reporting

The PJS said that 74 of its offices had been bombed by the Israeli military since October 7, and that two journalists in Gaza were currently missing.

In the West Bank, the PJS said 56 Palestinian journalists had been arrested, and more than 300 crews had reported being badly treated at Israeli checkpoints.

The organisation believes almost all of those arrested remain in Israeli jails.

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“We cannot contact them, we know no information about them – even the Red Cross cannot help us,” As’ad said.

“It’s a situation that nobody can even understand or tolerate as a journalist in any place in the world – I don’t think any journalists have lived and worked under those circumstances that my colleagues are in now in Gaza.

The National: As'ad has been a journalist for more than 30 yearsAs'ad has been a journalist for more than 30 years (Image: Shuruq As'ad)

“They are attacked, they’re losing their lives, they’re injured. And they work although they lost loved ones, although they know that they may be [the] next target.”

Dozens of journalists killed

As of January 28, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), working alongside the PJS, estimates 90 Palestinian journalists have been killed in the conflict since October 7, when Hamas launched its attacks on Israel.

Under international humanitarian law, the intentional targeting of journalists constitutes a war crime.

Many of the Palestinian journalists who have been killed died after Israeli airstrikes hit their homes, or while they were reporting on the ground in areas supposed to be protected by international law, including hospitals, refugee camps and schools.

“Israel, in my opinion, is trying to demolish any possibility of civil life in Gaza,” As’ad continued.

“This is not coincidence killing – 90% [of journalists] were targeted and assassinated, some alone, some with their families.

“Some of them received direct threats from the Israeli army 24 hours or 48 hours before they died.

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“We have others who received the threats, but the killing was to their families,” As’ad added, referencing Al Jazeera's Gaza chief Wael Al-Dahdouh, whose family has been targeted and killed in Israeli attacks.

Al-Dahdouh lost his wife, daughter, son and grandchild in an attack in October, in addition to two nephews who were killed in a car bombing on January 7.

He was also targeted in a drone strike which left him injured and killed another colleague, cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who died after ambulances were unable to reach him.

Al-Dahdouh has since escaped from Gaza to Qatar, where he will continue to receive medical treatment for the injuries he sustained.

Hope for fresh ICC case

There remains hope for justice. The PJS is currently compiling a case against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC), at The Hague.

Although still in its early stages, the PJS hopes the case will hold Israel to account for the killing of journalists in Palestine, which amounts to around one journalist killed every day.

“We hope that they will be punished,” As’ad said. “Either the politicians who took that decision, or the soldiers who implemented the decision on the ground.”

She added that the PJS was also working with the UN, parliaments, journalists and other organisations to lobby the Israeli government to stop killing journalists.

Since October 7, more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed, vast swathes of Gaza have been destroyed and nearly 85% of its people have been displaced.

On January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to ensure its forces do not commit genocide and to ensure preservation of evidence of alleged genocide.

The court stopped short of ordering a ceasefire, or of determining whether Israel’s military campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide – a deliberation that will take years. 

The IFJ Safety Fund supports journalists facing violence, persecution and threat or needing medical treatment. You can donate here