By John Friend
Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a native of East Jerusalem whose Christian family originally hailed from Bethlehem, has died after being shot in the head while covering a raid by Israeli military forces near the city of Jenin in the West Bank earlier this morning.
Abu Akleh, an internationally renowned and beloved journalist who has reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Al-Jazeera since 1997, was shot and killed during an Israeli army operation launched against a refugee camp near Jenin, a West Bank city that has been targeted following numerous attacks against Israeli civilians in recent weeks.
“What we know for now is that the Palestinian health ministry has announced her death,” Nida Ibrahim of Al-Jazeera explained earlier this morning. “Shireen Abu Akleh was covering the events unfolding in Jenin, specifically, an Israeli raid on the city, which is north of the occupied West Bank, when she was hit by a bullet to the head.”
Palestinian officials and on-the-scene witnesses immediately blamed Israeli forces, possibly an Israeli sniper, for firing the fatal shot that killed Abu Akleh. Other gunfire injured another journalist, a reporter for the Al-Quds newspaper as well as Al-Jazeera named Ali al-Samoudi, who was assisting Abu Akleh.
Israeli political and military officials, on the other hand, have blamed Palestinian gunmen. Video footage from the scene of the attack show Abu Akleh wearing a clearly marked vest identifying her as a member of the press.
مشاهد توثّق لحظة اغتيال مراسلة الجزيرة شيرين أبو عاقلة برصاص قنّاص اسرائيلي. pic.twitter.com/26dKFFvAYM
— أخبار النزاعات والحروب (@akbaralhurub) May 11, 2022
Israeli military forces have long been accused of deliberately targeting civilians, including journalists, and failing to take precautions to prevent death or injuries to civilian populations in proximity to military raids and operations carried out by Israel Defense Forces.
Israeli Prime Minister Neftali Bennett and other political and military figures in Israel have released statements backing the military’s actions in Jenin, arguing the tragic death was likely caused by errant Palestinian gunfire rather than Israeli military forces.
“According to the information in our hands right now, there is a good chance that armed Palestinians, firing wildly, brought about the tragic death of the journalist,” Bennett said in a statement.
Palestinian officials have blamed Israeli forces, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas describing the journalist’s death as “an ugly cime” and an “execution.” Hamas stated that Israeli forces deliberately assassinated her.
🚨BREAKING: Israeli #apartheid forces killed @AJENews journalist Shireen Abu Akleh @ShireenNasri just #NOW while she was covering the invasion of #Jenin in occupied #Palestine. Shireen was wearing a #PRESS vest when she was shot in the head! No words. Just tears. الله يرحمك @UN https://t.co/Cz50y9b7hs
— State of Palestine (@Palestine_UN) May 11, 2022
“The assessment is that she was killed by Israeli gunfire, and witnesses at the scene attest to this as well,” a Palestinian health official told reporters.
Al-Samoudi explained to reporters following the attack that he and Abu Akleh were with a small group of other journalists who went to cover the Israeli raid. He noted that all the reporters were wearing protective gear visibly identifying them as members of the press and that they had even passed by Israeli military forces in order to show them that journalists were present in the area. He explained that “there were no armed Palestinians or other civilians in the area—only the reporters and the army,” according to The Times of Israel.
Shireen Abu Aqleh—a wonderful human being, a remarkable journalist, a dear longtime friend—was shot & murdered by the Israeli occupation army. The heart breaks. Palestine grieves. Rest in peace & power & love. https://t.co/22LvVLCkJJ
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) May 11, 2022
Bidding Shireen Abu Aqleh farewell in Jenin. https://t.co/DRNQU92Yvq
— Nour Odeh 🇵🇸 #NojusticeNopeace (@nour_odeh) May 11, 2022
“We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming,” al-Samoudi told Al-Jazeera. “The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen . . . there was no Palestinian military resistance at all at the scene.”
Ned Price, a U.S. State Department spokesman, condemned Abu Akleh’s death and called for an immediate investigation, arguing that “those responsible must be held accountable.”
We are heartbroken by and strongly condemn the killing of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. The investigation must be immediate and thorough and those responsible must be held accountable. Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere.
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) May 11, 2022