Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s memorial service begins in Ramallah

PA President Mahmoud Abbas pays is respects to Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Ramallah, the Israeli-occupied West Bank (Reuters)

Ismaeel Naar

The National  /  May 12, 2022

Al-Jazeera correspondent was shot in the face during an Israeli raid in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Palestinians have begun moving journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s body to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah for a state service which is being held in her honour.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to receive Abu Akleh’s body at the Muqata’a, the PA leadership’s headquarters. Her family plans to bury her on Friday in East Jerusalem where she had lived.

The respected Al-Jazeera correspondent, aged 51, was shot in the face during an Israeli raid in the West Bank on Wednesday.

She was wearing a vest and helmet clearly marked “PRESS” while reporting in the city of Jenin. Another Palestinian journalist was admitted to hospital after being shot in the back.

Palestinian mourners carried her body to the office of Al-Jazeera in the West Bank where friends and colleagues paid their respects before transferring her body to the PA headquarters.

“There is no God but Allah, and the martyr is God’s child. Oh Shireen, oh Shireen, we will love and miss you Shireen,” crowds chanted.

Her body was carried in a hearse accompanied by armed police vehicles as thousands of Palestinians lined the streets to pay their respects. Mr Abbas laid a wreath on her coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag.

In a sombre speech, the Palestinian leader paid tribute to “an honest, patriotic and nationalist voice who conveyed the sufferings of the Palestinian people everywhere.”

“It’s a crime to kill Shireen Abu Akleh,” Mr Abbas said. He said the PA would take the case to the International Criminal Court rather than participate in a joint investigation into the killing called for by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Abu Akleh’s family was distraught in an interview with her employer.

“I just want to understand why they killed her? Why did they kill her?” Judith Abu Akleh a relative, told Al Jazeera.

Lina Abu Akleh said her aunt was her best friend and second mother.

“She’s someone that I have looked up to since I was a kid, watching all of her reports and I never imagined, I never thought this day would come where the news would be about her and she won’t be the one covering the news,” she said.

Israeli investigation begins

Israeli officials are attempting to distance the Israeli army from the death of Abu Akleh.

An initial probe by the Israel Defence Forces said it was still unclear whether the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was Israeli or Palestinian.

The Israeli investigation, reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said she was about 150 metres away from Israeli military forces when she was shot and killed.

The report said soldiers from the elite Duvdevan Unit fired a few dozen bullets during its raid in Jenin.

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett initially suggested it was “likely” that “armed Palestinians” were responsible for Abu Akleh’s death, although Defence Minister Benny Gantz appeared to distance himself from those remarks, and said he could not “exclude any option”.

IDF Chief of the General Staff Aviv Kohavi on Wednesday said Palestinian gunmen had fired extensively at Israeli forces and that they could not conclusively determine the source of gunfire that killed Abu Akleh.

“At this point, it is not possible to determine the source of the gunfire which hit her, and we express our sorrow over her death,” Mr Kohavi said.

“In order to get to the truth, we have set up a special task force to clarify all the facts, and present them as soon as possible,” he added.

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called for the killing to be “investigated transparently,” while the EU said it wanted to see an “independent” investigation.

Postmortem examination report

The Department of Forensic Medicine at Al-Najah University said on Wednesday that it had completed the first stage of the postmortem examination on Abu Akleh’s body. In its initial report, doctors said her injury was “direct and fatal”.

At a press conference in Nablus, the department said it found “no evidence that the shooting was from a distance of less than a metre”.

Medical examiners said they had no further details on the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, but said a “deformed projectile” was seized and is now being studied in a ballistics lab.

Ismaeel Naar is a breaking news reporter at The National