Motaz Azaiza, One Of Gaza’s Most Beloved Journalists, Has Announced He Is Evacuating In A Tearful Video

"This is the last time that you will see me in this heavy, stinky vest. I decided to evacuate today, so I'm sorry," Azaiza said as he visibly teared up.

Motaz Azaiza, a beloved 24-year-old Palestinian photojournalist in Gaza, has announced that he is evacuating.

Azaiza, who had previously focused on documenting daily life in Gaza, has emerged as one of the most recognized and iconic journalists in Gaza after Israel declared war on Hamas on Oct. 7.

Azaiza’s Instagram followers skyrocketed from 25,000 to more than 18.2 million in just over 100 days after the war started.

Throughout the war, Azaiza shared daily updates on-the-ground on his Instagram, providing a crucial and personal glimpse into the realities of the devastation in Gaza, prompting concern for his wellbeing whenever he didn’t share an update for a few hours.

He risked his life several times to cover Israeli airstrikes, even being shot at by Israeli soldiers.

“Guys from my age around the world are busy with their careers, travel, their loved ones and planning for their future,” Azaiza wrote on Instagram in December. “Here you can’t even make a plan for the next 5 minutes. Everything we built, we dreamed about got demolished.”

In a tearful video on his Instagram on Tuesday Jan. 23, Azaiza announced that he had made the heartbreaking decision to evacuate Gaza.

“This is the last time that you will see me in this heavy, stinky vest,” he said, referring to his blue press flak jacket, which he was seen wearing throughout the past 107 days.

“I decided to evacuate today, so I’m sorry,” Azaiza said as he visibly teared up.

“But inshallah, hopefully soon I’ll come back to help build Gaza again,” he added.

The camera then zooms out to show Azaiza’s family, friends and fellow journalists approaching him to help him take off his flak jacket.

“I’ll miss you guys,” Azaiza then says, giving them one final embrace.

“So, I had to evacuate for a lot of reasons you all know some of it but not all of it,” he wrote in his Instagram caption. “Thank you all. Pray for Gaza.”

Azaiza later shared on his Instagram Stories that he had evacuated to Qatar, tagging the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Days earlier, Wael Al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera Arabic’s Bureau Chief in Gaza, whose wife and children were killed by multiple Israeli airstrikes, also traveled to Qatar to receive medical treatment after he was injured by an Israeli airstrike that also killed his cameraman.

At least 83 journalists have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

This makes it the deadliest period for journalists since 1992, when CPJ began gathering data.

More journalists have been killed in the first 10 weeks of the war than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year, according to CPJ.

More than 25,000 Palestinians in Gaza have now been killed by Israeli airstrikes and its ground offensive since Oct. 7, with the majority of them being women and children. 

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