FRONT LINE JOURNALISM - The chief of Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau, Wael Al-Dahdouh, learned while reporting on-air Wednesday that his wife, son, daughter, and grandson had been killed in an Israeli airstrike like the ones the veteran journalist has been covering for nearly three weeks.
Al-Dahdouh was reporting live near Wafa Hospital in Gaza City when someone spoke to him about his family.
"What, what happened? They don't know where they are?" he asked, before being told that his daughter had been hospitalized.
His colleagues later broke the news to viewers that Al-Dahdouh's family members had been killed.
The channel aired footage of the bureau chief weeping over his son, who appeared to be laying on the floor of the nearby hospital. Medical providers have been warning for days that hospitals are overrun with victims of airstrikes and medical supplies and fuel and running dangerously low, putting the healthcare system in Gaza at risk of collapse.
Another son of Al-Dahdouh's, Yehia, was seriously injured and had to be operated on in a corridor, with doctors resorting to nonsurgical thread to stitch his wound.
While kneeling over his son, Al-Dahdouh reportedly said, "They're taking revenge by killing our children."
"What happened is clear, this is a series of targeted attacks on children, women and civilians," Al-Dahdouh said. "I was just reporting from Yarmouk about such an attack, and the Israeli raids have targeted many areas, including Nuseirat."
After being led out of the hospital by colleagues, the journalist said his family had been sheltering in what was "supposed to be the safe area."
Israel has issued evacuation orders for people in northern Gaza, but has then bombed areas in the south where civilians have been directed to go.
"We had some doubts that the Israeli army would leave this area unpunished," Al-Dahdouh said.
Al-Dahdouh's family was killed hours after Axios reported that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had told a group of Jewish American community leaders that he's asked the Qatari government, which provides funding to Al Jazeera, to "tone down" its reporting on Israel's attacks on Gaza. The network has provided in-depth coverage of civilian casualties, the plight of medical providers trying to keep the healthcare system running, and calls for a cease-fire from human rights advocates since the onslaught began nearly three weeks ago.
Israel, which the U.S. government has pledged support for and provided with military funding, has complained that Al Jazeera is a "propaganda mouthpiece" for Hamas.
A source told Axios that Blinken said he asked Qatar to "turn down the volume on Al Jazeera's coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement."
The reports of Blinken's comments suggest "the aim of American diplomacy is not to end the war but to end the COVERAGE of the war," said Trita Parsi, co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
Al Jazeera strongly condemned the killing of Al-Dahdouhs family, releasing a statement saying that "the indiscriminate assault by the Israeli occupation forces resulted in the tragic loss of his wife, son, and daughter, while the rest of his family is buried under the rubble."
"We urge the international community to intervene and put an end to these attacks on civilians," the network said, "thereby safeguarding innocent lives."
(Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was featured.)