He continuously hears the shots and explosions. “You see rockets hitting and you hear fighter jets.” For reporter Pepijn Nagtzaam from Roosendaal it is currently daily business. He reports on the war in Israel for RTL News. With a helmet on his head and a bulletproof vest. “I’m rarely afraid.”
Pepijn reports from a hilltop a few hundred meters from the Gaza border. “I was just in Israel, but Gaza was very close,” Pepijn said on Wednesday morning in the radio program ‘WAKKER!’ on Omroep Brabant. “From that hilltop you have a view of Gaza and Gaza City. A lot is exploding inside Gaza.”
According to local authorities, more than 8,500 people have been killed during the war in the Gaza Strip, which broke out on October 7. The Israeli army says it has attacked more than 11,000 targets of ‘terrorist organizations’ in the Gaza Strip during the war with Hamas. According to the armed forces, these attacks killed Hamas leaders, among others.
Israel began the massive bombings in response to a surprise offensive by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. The army is also engaged in military operations on the ground.
“You have to tell these stories.”
Anyone who sees the images will wonder whether Pepijn and his colleagues are not taking a lot of risk by reporting from so close up. “No, we calculate the risk very carefully. In journalism it is important that you are where the news is. But it is also important that you return safely. That hill on which we stand, that is where the entire world press stands. From the Turkish to American, Norwegian and French teams. The reason we are there is that this is actually the only place from which you can clearly see what is happening in the Gaza Strip without being in great danger.”
International media are not allowed in Gaza itself. “That access is prohibited by the Israeli army,” Pepijn explains. “So to really know what’s happening on the ground in Gaza, we depend on local journalists who are constantly risking their lives. Right now, no place in Gaza is safe. And yet, within that strip, people are working very hard. We are working hard to ensure that we find out what is happening there through photos and videos.”
“I don’t want to be among the explosions.”
According to Pepijn, the fact that he is not afraid despite the constant shelling has nothing to do with courage. “It’s about thinking very carefully in advance what you are going to do somewhere and how you can do it safely. If you think about it carefully, you don’t have to be so afraid. I’m not a hero, you know. I don’t want to interfere the bullets and the explosions are there. But I would like to tell the story, because it is important to know what happens there.”
A large part of the day is spent making safety analyses, says Pepijn. “How do we get to the desired location safely by car? When you are there, where are the bomb shelters? How do we get away quickly, if necessary? You are very aware of the safety situation every moment you report. You are constantly looking: how do I make it as safe as possible for myself?”
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