Al Jazeera Reporter Shireen Abu Akleh Killed by Israeli Soldiers in West Bank, Network Says
18:05 GMT 11.05.2022 (Updated: 18:07 GMT 11.05.2022)
A journalist reporting for Al Jazeera in the West Bank was shot dead on Wednesday and her colleague was wounded. Israeli officials have claimed they were wounded by Palestinian gunfire, but according to the Qatari network, they were shot by Israeli snipers while near neither Palestinians nor gunfire.
Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, was pronounced dead by a Jenin hospital on Wednesday morning shortly after she arrived with a gunshot wound in her head. Another Al Jazeera journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was also wounded by a gunshot to the back at the same time but is now in stable condition.
According to Samoudi, the two were shot while standing around several other journalists in Jenin, well away from the refugee camp, where Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers were carrying out raids on the homes of alleged terror suspects. He said there was no fighting or shooting going on at the time, least of all near them.
“We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming,” Samoudi said, as quoted by Al Jazeera
. “The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen … there was no Palestinian military resistance at all at the scene.”
He added they were both wearing their blue press vests and helmets at the time, which clearly identified them as reporters.
Shatha Hanaysha, a local journalist who was standing next to Abu Akleh when she was shot, told Al Jazeera much the same.
“We were four journalists, we were all wearing vests, all wearing helmets,” Hanaysha said. “The [Israeli] occupation army did not stop firing even after she collapsed. I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots being fired. The army was adamant on shooting to kill.”
A Palestinian Christian born in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood in 1971, Abu Akleh studied print journalism at Yarmouk University in Jordan. She used her talents to tell the stories of the Palestinian struggle, first with the UN Refugee Agency, then Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation before becoming Al Jazeera’s Palestine correspondent in 1997.
"I chose journalism to be close to people, and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to change the situation. But at least I managed to bring Palestinians' voices to the world,” Abu Akleh once said
of her work.
She was reportedly beloved by her fellow Palestinians. A vast crowd gathered in Ramallah as mourners carried her body, draped in a Palestinian flag, keffiyeh, and flowers, to a funeral service.
Abu Akleh’s body has been transferred to the Istishari Hospital in Ramallah for a formal autopsy, as per order of the public prosecutor, Al Jazeera said.
The Palestinian National Authority, which governs the West Bank, has unequivocally laid blame on Israeli security forces. In a statement, the PNA’s foreign ministry
accused Israel of “Intentionally and deliberately” shooting both journalists.
“The Presidency holds the Israeli government fully responsible for this heinous crime,” PNA President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said
, adding that “it is part of the daily policy pursued by the occupation against our people, their land and their holy sites.”
The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) demanded “an independent, transparent investigation into her killing. Impunity must end."
Israeli NGO Debunks IDF Claims of Palestinian Fault
However, Israeli officials have made very different claims about the sequence of events that unfolded in Jenin on Wednesday morning.
“During the operation in Jenin refugee camp, suspects fired an enormous amount of gunfire at troops and hurled explosive devices. [Israeli] forces fired back” the IDF said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel
The army added that it was “looking into the possibility that journalists were injured, potentially by Palestinian gunfire.”
“But even if soldiers shot at - or, God forbid, hurt - someone who was not involved, this happened in battle, during a firefight, where this Palestinian is with the shooters. So this thing can happen,” IDF spokesperson Ran Kochav told Army Radio.
Kochav described Abu Akleh as “filming and working for a media outlet amidst armed Palestinians. They’re armed with cameras, if you’ll permit me to say so.”
However, the Israeli Foreign Minister doesn’t seem to have its story straight. In one tweet, the Foreign Ministry showed Palestinians shooting down an alleyway, with a cut to a second clip in which one says that an IDF soldier had been hit. However, since no IDF soldier was shot in the encounter, the Foreign Ministry argued, the Palestinians “are likely to have hit” Abu Akleh.
The Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem disputed the ministry’s claim, posting a video on Twitter in which someone walks from the location where the Palestinian was filmed shooting, down the alley through which he was firing, then up the street, down another alleyway, and onto a third street several hundred meters away, to the point where Abu Akleh and Samoudi were shot.
B’Tselem also posted links to two Google Maps coordinates, showing a bird’s-eye view of the distance and lack of alignment between the Palestinian gunman and the shot journalists.
Then, in a reply to B’Tselem’s thread, the Israeli Foreign Ministry account bizarrely admitted to stringing together two unrelated clips, saying that “There was no claim that the gunfire in the clip killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Rather, that Palestinian terrorists were firing indiscriminately, and that they identified shooting down someone that looked to them like a soldier (ie, perhaps wearing a vest and helmet).”