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A Palestinian journalist shares her vision for a postwar Gaza

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

From the U.N. to the U.S. to the Middle East, officials that are not Palestinians say a lot about a post-war Gaza.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think Israel will - for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility, because we've seen what happens.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: The United States continues to believe that the best viable path, indeed the only path, is through a two-state solution.

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AYMAN SAFADI: How could anybody talk about the future of Gaza when we do not know what kind of Gaza will be left once this aggression ends?

FADEL: But this Palestinian territory is not their home. So we've reached out to Palestinians, some inside and some outside of Gaza, to ask for their vision of the future. We start that series of conversations today with a storyteller - journalist Plestia Alaqad. In the days before this war, she shared the fashion and the beauty of Gaza on her Instagram and TikTok accounts, including the beach.

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FADEL: Before we spoke about the future, I asked Alaqad about her life in the days before October 7.

PLESTIA ALAQAD: I loved my life in Gaza, yet it was full of challenges and struggles because of the occupation. And the sad thing, we thought that's the normal life. We thought having four to six hours of electricity a day is normal. We thought that the borders opening and closing whenever, not being able to travel whenever we want is normal. Since I was born, I was living in Gaza and living under occupation. So you come to normalize this not-normal life.

FADEL: Then it all changed when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. Alaqad started documenting Israel's punishing response. She and other Palestinian journalists became a window for the world inside the Gaza Strip. In her blue press flak jacket, she reported, despite the dangers.

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ALAQAD: I'm Al-Shifa Hospital right now. It's really crowded. It's full of people.

Today is my birthday. I turned 22 years old today. That means I'm four aggressions...

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ALAQAD: ...And a war old.

The point of my Instagram account and vlogging my life and filming stories is humanizing us Palestinians. I don't want the world to see us as numbers only. No. I want them to know us, to know how we're feeling, to know what we're really going through. I want to show the world what the mainstream media is not showing.

FADEL: You're only 22, reporting on a war - and not just reporting on a war, living through it. What were the challenges? What was driving you?

ALAQAD: Everything was so difficult as a human and as a journalist. Like, I'm working as a journalist with no internet. I have to use eSIMS and go to certain places to have internet. There's no electricity. We are so afraid of the mic, the camera. If they stopped working, we can't buy other supplies. We can't buy anything, you know? And we're trying to survive. Like, we're journalists. We want to show the world what's happening, yet we're trying not to get killed and targeted just because we are journalists.

FADEL: You're hearing American officials talk about what Gaza should look like in the future. But I want to know from you what you want the future to be in Gaza.

ALAQAD: I just want to live to see Palestine free.

FADEL: You also describe the destruction, and you spend so much time showing beautiful places in Gaza. Can that be rebuilt, the Gaza that you knew?

ALAQAD: It will be rebuilt. And I know that for a fact. But, you know, what's the thing? How many times will we rebuild it? This is not the first time that buildings and houses get demolished and us rebuilding it again. But how many times would we rebuild it? How many times would we create memories and it will get erased?

FADEL: Wow.

ALAQAD: We're humans. We have energy, you know?

FADEL: Plestia Alaqad is a Palestinian journalist from Gaza, and she's speaking to us from Australia. Plestia, thank you so much.

ALAQAD: Thank you for your time as well. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.