Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh shot dead in West Bank

Shireen Abu Akleh was a Palestinian reporter for Al-Jazeeras Arabic language channel (Twitter)

Ismaeel Naar

The National  /  May 11, 2022

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he holds Israeli forces totally responsible.

Veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank town of Jenin, the Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed.

Abu Akleh, 51, was a prominent reporter for Al-Jazeera’s Arabic language channel. The Health Ministry said she was shot and died soon afterwards as Al-Jazeera, Palestinians and Qatari officials blamed Israel.

Al-Jazeera’s producer Ali al-Samoudi was also wounded in the same incident but is in a stable condition.

Videos circulating online show Abu Akleh with blood streaming from her head after being shot. People can be seen scrambling to carry her to a car. She was declared dead by doctors at a hospital.

In the footage, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”

The Israeli military said its forces came under attack from heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and fired back. The military said it is “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen”. However, the Israeli military denied deliberately targeting the press.

“The [army] of course does not aim at journalists,” a military official told AFP.

Brig Gen Ran Kochav, an Israeli commander, told army radio that the two journalists were standing alongside armed Palestinians.

However, Abu Akleh’s producer Samoudi, who was wounded in the incident, told The Associated Press gave a different account of the events.

He said that they were among a group of seven reporters who went to cover the raid early on Wednesday. He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly marked them as reporters and they passed by Israeli troops so the soldiers would see them and know that they were there.

Samoudi said the first shot missed them, then a second struck him, and a third killed Abu Akleh. He said there were no militants or other civilians in the area — only the reporters and the army.

He said the military’s suggestion that they were shot by militants was a “complete lie.”

Shaza Hanaysheh, a reporter with a Palestinian news website who was also among the reporters, gave a similar account in an interview with Al-Jazeera, saying there were no clashes or shooting in the immediate area.

She said that when the shots rang out she and Abu Akleh ran toward a tree to take shelter.

“I reached the tree before Shireen. She fell on the ground,” Hanaysheh said. “The soldiers did not stop shooting even after she fell. Every time I extended my hand to pull Shireen, the soldiers fired at us.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he holds Israeli forces fully responsible for the reporter’s death.

The Palestinian Authority called Abu Akleh’s killing an “execution,” and part of an Israeli effort to obscure the “truth” about its occupation of the West Bank.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, however, blamed Israel for Abu Akleh’s death. Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah al-Khater said that Abu Akleh was “shot in the face” while wearing a press flak jacket and condemned “state sponsored Israeli terrorism”.

“We call on the international community to condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh,” Al-Jazeera said.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the Israeli government has offered to work on a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority into Abu Akleh’s death. A short time later, however, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the Palestinian Authority had rejected the offer of a joint autopsy.

“We have offered the Palestinians a joint pathological investigation into the sad death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,” Mr Lapid tweeted.

Abu Akleh was born in Jerusalem and began working for Al-Jazeera in 1997. She regularly reported on-camera from across the Palestinian territories.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war and the Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of their future state.

Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the territory under Israeli military rule. Israel has built more than 130 illegal settlements across the West Bank that are home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers, who have full Israeli citizenship.

In recent weeks, the Israeli army has stepped up operations in Jenin, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several of the assailants blamed for deadly attacks on Israelis in recent weeks were from the area.

A total of 30 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs have died during the same period, according to an AFP tally, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.

Ismaeel Naar is a breaking news reporter at The National