Mohammad Hussein has been sitting in front of the television for the past few weeks watching the destruction of Gaza by Israeli air strikes. And when an Israeli airstrike killed the family of Al Jazeera Gaza bureau chief Wael Dahdouh on Wednesday, Hussein watched the story unfold.

“It’s a crime,” the 45-year-old taxi driver said, fiddling with prayer beads with his left hand as he sat on a busy Beirut street. “[And a violation] of human rights.”

On Wednesday it was announced that Dahdouh’s family was killed in an attack in the southern Gaza Strip. His family had fled the northern Gaza Strip to the south on Israel’s advice, but were killed anyway.

Dahdouh lost his wife, a daughter, a grandson and a 15-year-old son who wanted to follow in his footsteps in journalism. They are among more than 7,000 people killed in Gaza since hostilities began – including 3,000 children. The images of Dahdouh entering the mortuary and identifying his family members were widely shared on Al Jazeera Arabic.

“It was shocking news,” said Maan Al-Haj Ali, a journalist working for the Palestinian news agency WAFA. “As if [he] was a member of the family, as if someone very close to you had broken in front of you.”

“You seek revenge on your children”

For the people of Gaza, Dahdouh’s presence on their screens has been a constant in recent years. Many media outlets praised his work and expressed sadness that a man so used to reporting on other people’s tragedies now had to confront his own.

“As a journalist and writer, Wael is a role model for courageous reporting and authentic journalism,” Mohammed R. Mhawish, a Gaza-based Palestinian journalist and writer, told Al Jazeera. “I was listening to the live broadcast when he received the news of his family members being murdered. It shocked me to see him collapse on screen.”

The attack came just a few weeks after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reportedly asked the Emir of Qatar to tone down Al Jazeera Arabic’s coverage of the war on Gaza. Upon seeing his murdered family, Dahdouh is reported to have said: “They seek revenge through our children.”

Al Jazeera’s Wael Dahdouh at the funeral of his family members killed in an Israeli attack [Atia Darwish/Al Jazeera]

“The attack is not only against Wael and his family, but against the entire population of Gaza,” said Ahmed al-Yazil, a media and mass communication student in Gaza. “Israel is trying to suppress the voice of Wael and all Palestinians who want to report on the reality of life under occupation and war. But it won’t work, even if we lose loved ones along the way.”

“Why are they targeting journalists?”

The news spread like wildfire on social networks. Users shared images of a distraught Dahdouh or a clip of the presenter breaking the news and nearly bursting into tears.

“My Instagram has been full of people sharing it since yesterday,” Aya Mhanna, 38, a Lebanese clinical psychologist now living in Istanbul, told Al Jazeera. Mhanna said she recognized Dahdouh from his reporting and regretted that the journalist had made the headlines. “This breaks my heart.”

Even those who didn’t know his name until Wednesday said the story was on everyone’s lips. Abdulrahman Bashar Itani sat next to two other men outside his shop in Beirut. “I watch all the channels,” said the sprightly 90-year-old. “I haven’t seen the news, but everyone is talking about it.”

Itani also brought up Issam Abdallah, the Lebanese Reuters journalist who was killed in southern Lebanon on October 13. “Haram,” he said. “Why are they targeting journalists?”

At least 24 journalists were killed in the recent hostilities, including 20 Palestinians, three Israelis and Abdallah from Lebanon.

Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Dahdouh mourns the body of one of his family members killed in an Israeli attack in Nuseirat camp at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip [Majdi Fathi/AFP]

In the West Bank, Palestinians have become accustomed to Dahdouh’s presence and his reporting on the decades-long occupation of Palestine and the genocide of his people. Respect and compassion flowed through him as he was devastated by Israel’s murder of his family in southern Gaza.

“It is shameful for the people who … watch our children, women and the elderly being killed sitting down.” [by]said Ali, the WAFA journalist.

“As if the children of Palestine were worthless”

While the eyes of the world turn to Gaza, Syria is also still being hit by airstrikes, albeit from Russia. Nevertheless, many in Syria were also affected by the news and took a minute to express their solidarity.

“The pain and sadness that Wael felt was felt by all of us, despite our distance from him,” said Osman al-Khader, a lawyer and Syrian revolution activist. “Wael refused to do anything other than teach us a lesson in patience and courage.”

Syrian journalist Hanin al-Sayed from Idlib said the Israeli attack on Dahdouh’s family reminded him of the killing of another loyal Palestinian journalist last year.

“He often reminds me of Shireen Abu Akleh, may she rest in peace,” al-Sayed said. He added that she was “the voice of truth killed by the shots of the Israeli army, which continues to kill children and women in full view.”

Dahdouh’s pain was visible to the world on Wednesday. Many in the region have condemned the ongoing attacks on civilians and the rising death toll, with no immediate end in sight.

“No one is offering anything to help,” Ali said. It is “as if the children of Palestine and the Palestinian people were worthless.”

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