The Israeli military yesterday allowed a journalist to join their ranks and file a (censored) report from the Gaza Strip – the first professional media report from the area since the present conflict started on December 30.

Reporting from a war zone is never a simple task, but given that the Israeli government has banned the media from the Gaza Strip thus far, traditional journalism has been thrown out the window as the tech savvy on the ground get busy.

Twitter, blogs, YouTube and the humble telephone have really come into their own as tools of the media in Gaza in the past fortnight as journalists struggle with getting reliable information, pictures and voices out of the war zone, with all the complications that come with reporting in a different language to the tongues involved in the conflict and relying on civilian sources on the ground who have their own agendas.

Twitter is on fire with regular updates from bloggers inside and outside of Gaza. Laila El-Haddad “Gazamom” who blogs at Raising Yousuf and Noor: diary of a Palestinian mother  is one of them:

The controversial Pro-Palestinian group International Solidarity Movement have at least two activists blogging their experiences from Gaza:

I am again at Ramattan watching these weird phosphorous bombs falling on the city. Mo has just been speaking to his sister, his family were receiving the phosphorous bombs all night last night, in Khuza’a, east of Khan Younis, she said the bombs smell like sewerage. She said just in their area there were 110 injuries from the phosphorous. Today they fled their house and went to relatives. We called the Ministry of Health to ask if they have analysed the substances involved, but they said that unfortunately they simply don’t have the resources to do so and have to wait on outside confirmation. — Sharon Lock blogging at Tales to Tell

On January 7, as I and a Spanish human rights advocate and documentary film-maker, Alberto Arce, accompanied Palestinian medics to retrieve the body of a man shot earlier by invading Israeli forces, we were also shot at as the medics carried the body towards the ambulance. It was in Dawwar Zimmo, eastern Jabaliya, near the area which has been occupied by Israeli soldiers since the land invasion began. It’s an area where 10s are thought to have been seriously injured by bombing and shooting from the Israeli army, and where many, many more will lie dead, uncollected for days, or weeks, out of reach of the medics whose duty is to retrieve them. — Eva Bartlett blogging at In Gaza

While a plethora of doctors, university professors and students are blogging in English on group sites:

The occupation troops are closing in my city. They are one street away from my neighborhood. In the last weeks, people used to move around in the streets, even if for a little bit. But ever since 2 days I haven’t seen anything or anyone except speeding ambulances. My heart aches for how my once prosperous, vibrant, rich city slowly turning into a city surrounded by death, danger, destruction and haunted houses… — University student Dina Hazem blogging at Moments of Gaza

Blog translators at Global Voices are also aggregating chunks of first hand anecdotes from Gaza in English and Arabic:

Several untold stories still under the rubbles of Gaza devastation. The more time this war lasts the more victims fall down, their stories buried with them. Most of the Gaza Strip plunges into deep darkness since the start of this war. I find several hardships to send out this report due to power problem. Today, a rocket targeted my uncle’s house. My house got several splinters and rocket shrapnel. — Palestinian photojournalist Sameh Akram Habeeb blogging at Gaza Strip: The untold story

Big news outlets have jumped on the blog bandwagon with Al Jazeera using Oxfam advocate and media researcher Mohammed Ali to provide on the ground content through his blog:

Medical teams cannot cope; doctors are working 24 hour shifts, there are not enough beds, equipment or medicine to deal with this humanitarian crisis. I am hearing more and more stories of people trapped under rubble — ambulance teams unable to reach them, so they wait to die. While I was out, one man approached me and asked if I would help him to clear up dead bodies. Another asked if I worked for a humanitarian organisation but before I could answer he looked up at the sky and shouted: “Where is humanity?” — Gaza Diary

Meanwhile TV news organizations a world away have taken advantage of the old telephone, interviewing anyone in Gaza who speaks English.

Israel faces heavy criticism for the media ban and it doesn’t appear to have helped their image, with commentators saying the IDF have lost the PR war and have failed to contain the spread of images and civilian reports.

Keeping out the cameras and reporters simply doesn’t work. What is Israel afraid of? Using the old “enclosed military area” excuse to prevent coverage of its occupation of Palestinian land has been going on for years. But the last time Israel played this game — in Jenin in 2000 — it was a disaster. Now the Israeli army is trying the same doomed tactic again. Ban the press. Keep the cameras out. By yesterday morning, only hours after the Israeli army went clanking into Gaza to kill more Hamas members — and, of course, more civilians — Hamas was reporting the capture of two Israeli soldiers. Reporters on the ground could have sorted out the truth or the lie about that. But without a single Western journalist in Gaza, the Israelis were left to tell the world that they didn’t know if the story was true. — Robert Fisk, The Independent

Israel’s PR war. The question the foreign media really wants answered is invariably not “who’s in the right?” but “how will this round of fighting improve the overall situation?” And on that point, Israel never has a convincing argument. Given the country’s long history of engaging in wars that kill many more of its enemies than its own citizens but only buy a few months or years of calm, it’s a tough call to explain how this latest escapade will change the strategic balance, bring peace and prevent the need for another such bloodbath further down the line. Often that’s because there is in fact no good reason: Wars are fought for short-term gains.Haaretz

Nevertheless, the information keeps flowing out of Gaza, albeit in non-traditional forms.

Peter Fray

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