Finding Bayan: Tracing the journey of a journalist in war-torn Gaza

Finding Bayan: Tracing the journey of a journalist in war-torn Gaza
Journalist Bayan Abou Sultan

“I'm Bayan. I've lived 27 years in my beautiful city, Gaza. Today could be my last day here. My family and I refuse to relive the tragedy of the Nakba in 1948; we will not abandon our home. I cannot forgive the world, from the East to the West, for what might befall us. Hope our pictures will haunt you for life.”

This is how Bayan Abusultan, a young journalist, introduced herself to the world on X (formerly Twitter) at the onset of the war in Gaza. Jusoor Post conveys this message along with numerous messages that Palestinians in Gaza have shared on their accounts to amplify their voices.

Bayan kept posting updates about the situation, memories of friends lost in the war, and the fear that Gazans might be forcibly displaced from their lands. However, since November 11, Bayan has disappeared, with no posts on X or Instagram. Her last message on X was, “Guys! We're stuck in Aydiyya Street, and there are tanks and clashes around us, and we don't know how to get out.”

Jusoor Post diligently traced the events on Aydiyya Street in an effort to locate Bayan. In the course of our investigation, we uncovered a video posted by Yara Eid, a journalist and human rights advocate, on her X account also dated November 11. In the video, Yara urgently appealed to the Red Cross or anyone capable of assisting her friend and his family, who were trapped in their home on Aydiyya Street. The house had been shelled, resulting in two family members wounded and bleeding. Yara mentioned that ambulances were unable to reach them due to the presence of Israeli tanks and continuous bombardment. She emphasized that anyone near Al-Shifa Hospital was a target for the Israeli forces. Visibly distraught, Yara emotionally conveyed the heart-wrenching experience of calling her best friend in such a dire situation, listening to what might be their last words, and feeling utterly helpless.

Here, Jusoor Post learned that Aydiyya Street turned into a battle zone. While it was challenging to determine Bayan's exact location, it was undoubtedly an unsafe place.

On the same day, Al-Meqdad, a blogger from Gaza, shared additional information confirming that the Abusultan family, to which Bayan belongs, was not the only one affected. He stated on X, “A group of friends and families have been trapped for hours on Aydiyya Street near Al-Shifa Hospital. They include the families of Khreis, Abusultan, and Obeid. Communication has been cut off, and they are unable to leave their location due to the presence of tanks and snipers targeting anything that moves.” Jusoor Post attempted to contact Al-Meqdad for further details but was unable to reach him.

The reasons behind Bayan's decision to leave her house remain unclear. Despite her repeated assertions that she had no intention of leaving, on October 31, she made an attempt to evacuate, along with thousands of Palestinians, including journalists and medical staff, in response to threats from the Israeli army. But she couldn’t endure leaving her house and repeating another Nakba (“catastrophe”, referring the 1948 displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land). She wrote on X, “I evacuated my house after my aunt received a threat call from the IDF. During the 3 hours I spent in the street, my ancestors’ blood was boiling inside my veins. I know they had no choice but to leave their homes 75 years ago, but I cannot repeat history. I’m home now.”

Apparently, something major had happened that made her leave amidst tanks and air strikes. On November 9, Bayan wrote on X, “Tanks are closing in from the north and south, warships are settled in the west, and the army is in the east. Not to mention warplanes that keep roaming in our skies. We are trapped in #Gaza, and they keep getting closer and closer. They are only a few blocks away from my house.” 

Jusoor Post persisted in its efforts to trace and find Bayan. In the course of the search, Jusoor Post came across a post on X by Esraa Al-Hayek, seemingly one of Bayan's friends, revealing the reason for Bayan's departure: “They shelled their house on Aydiyya Street, and they are currently trapped in Al-Shifa Hospital. If anyone can help, please.”

According to Al-Hayek, the Israeli army shelled the house of the deeply rooted Palestinian girl, compelling her to seek refuge in a hospital that was later besieged by tanks, threatened by snipers, and even stormed by Israeli soldiers. She may have witnessed the tragic event of digging a mass grave for over one hundred killed Palestinians.

The latest information about Bayan suggests that she may still be besieged in Al-Shifa Hospital, facing severe shortages of food, water, electricity, and limited medical supplies. Alternatively, Bayan might have fled the hospital, embarking on a new journey in search of safety. There is a possibility that she is injured, and the hope remains that she has not been killed.

In her own words on X, Bayan, the girl whose grandparents were displaced from Al-Ramla during the 1948 Nakba, expressed, “When I go silent for long, it either means that I got no internet connection, that my battery died, or that I died. My full name is: Bayan Abusultan. And I live in western #Gaza City. If you google me and find out I was killed, please take care of my books.”