LONDON - Two weeks after being evacuated, the 25-year-old Palestinian – who has amassed 18.5m followers on Instagram – sat down with the London-based Guardian to share his experiences of the war.

Motaz Azaiza should have been dead by now. Death stalked the streets of Deir al-Balah where he grew up, long before Israel’s assault on Gaza. There had been close encounters in the past; as a teen he was once shot by an Israeli sniper.

When Israel launched its offensive in Gaza after the 7 October Hamas attacks, Azaiza picked up his camera and headed to the frontlines. Despite his clearly marked press vest, in December he narrowly avoided being hit again by Israeli forces. Israel denies targeting journalists but, according to a group of UN experts, more than 122 journalists and media professionals in Gaza have been killed so far: the deadliest conflict for members of the press in recent history.

“Israel won’t allow international journalists into Gaza and is killing those reporting from within,” says Azaiza. “It is a deliberate attempt to obscure the Palestinian narrative and erase the truth.” Azaiza spent 107 days documenting the conflict, during which 15 members of his own family, including his aunt and cousins, were killed.

“I rushed to report on a nearby bombing, only to realise my aunt’s house had been targeted,” he says. “I found their dismembered bodies strewn on the streets and spent a day collecting their body parts. The force of the explosion had obliterated others, leaving no trace of their remains – whole human beings reduced to nothingness.”

He has lost count of the number of friends he has lost.

In the days leading up to his evacuation, he says Israeli drones hovered above his home and he began receiving death threats from unknown numbers. The bombs got closer and louder. “I would lie awake in my bed thinking, ‘Any moment now, I will be next,’” he says.

Azaiza survived and on a sunny afternoon in Doha, the 25-year-old looks out from a window at the futuristic skyline of Qatar’s glitzy capital, nestled along the Gulf coast; a stark contrast to the destruction he has left behind. “It feels strange being here,” says Azaiza. “Nothing feels real any more.”

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