The well-known Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza evacuated from Gaza last week after covering 108 days of conflict in the besieged Strip.
In an emotional video on Instagram, the reporter explained his decision to leave Gaza, where journalists have been frequent victims of Israeli airstrikes.
“This is the last time you will see me with this heavy, stinky [press] vest. I decided to evacuate today,” he said in a post last Tuesday.
“Hopefully soon I’ll jump back and help to build Gaza again.”
Azaiza, who is believed to be back in Qatar, became one of the most prominent voices reporting from Gaza through his social media posts chronicling the war.
He shared daily updates in both Arabic and English depicting an unvarnished look at the destruction across Gaza. In several videos, he is also seen rescuing children from the rubble of bombed-out buildings.
Azaiza went from 25,000 Instagram followers in October to more than 18 million by the time he left Gaza last Tuesday.
Days before his departure, the 24-year-old received an award from a Turkish philanthropic organization, which he dedicated to Palestinian journalists killed in Gaza. He was also named the GQ Middle East’s Man of the Year in November. Azaiza has said that his work is intended to raise awareness, not personal fame.
Azaiza’s decision to pull out of Gaza follows the alleged targeted killings of several Palestinian journalists.
Al Jazeera has urged “the International Criminal Court, governments, human rights organizations and the United Nations to hold Israel accountable for its heinous crimes” and demanded “an end to the targeting and killing of journalists.”
Israel has said it does not target journalists reporting from the warzone.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 83 journalists and media workers have been killed since Oct. 7 in Gaza, the majority of whom are Palestinians. The International Federation of Journalists says the number is more than 100.
In addition to Azaiza, Al Jazeera journalist Wael Dahdouh, who survived Israeli airstrikes that killed five members of his family, is also reportedly headed to Qatar, where he will be treated for his injuries.
Other journalists, including The New Arab’s Gaza correspondent Diaa Al-Kahlout, have allegedly been detained and subject to torture and humiliation by Israeli forces.
According to the latest figures from the Hamas-run Gazan Ministry of Health, at least 25,490 people have been killed and 63,354 wounded since Israel declared war on Gaza. That tally does not report how each death occurred, nor does it distinguish between combatant and civilian deaths.